A rider on the recent funding bill passed by the U.S. Congress prohibits the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from extending any further protections for either the Greater Sage Grouse or the Gunnison Sage Grouse over the next year, according to an article “Congress’s hostile takeover of endangered species efforts” by Eric Molvar, of WildEarth Guardians, published in The Hill on December 15.
This rider will harm not only the sage grouse, but the scores of other wildlife species that they share their eco-systems with. It also runs counter to the rule of law.
The land in the interior West of the U.S. is suffering badly from chronic overgrazing, fragmented and destroyed eco-systems, invasive cheatgrass, and too-frequent wildfires.
Decades of efforts by conservationists to remedy this damage have just been undermined by this rider. The expertise of scientists who have spent their lives studying these issues has been swept aside by politicians.
With a sweep of the pen, Congress has nullified the court-won order to make a definite decision about listing the sage grouse on the Endangered Species Act next year. This action by congress favors the oil and gas industry and ignores the wishes of the American people and court rulings. The USFWS has been blocked from carrying out its job of protecting wildlife and wildlife habitat.
This, above, is the gist of the article by Eric Molvar. What follows are additional thoughts on this topic. It is not that our representatives in Congress hate sage grouse; probably many of them don’t know what a sage grouse is. These riders are slipped into bills that they have nothing to do with, and then they are passed by people who have almost never actually read the whole bill. All of this brings to light a number of flaws in our system of democracy – that our democracy has flaws will not be a surprise to anyone. However, there is something more at stake too, there are flaws in our thinking as a human species.
Generally, we put wildlife at the bottom of our priorities. It’s not that we don’t like wild animals. As a society, we just don’t find them that important. If I think like most human beings, then my thoughts go something liked this: which is more important: me or a sage grouse? Surely, I say to myself, I am more important. Sage grouse are okay and quite nice to have around, and I certainly wouldn’t want to hurt one, but our human interests, our economy, our jobs, our way of life, our families, our sense of security and well-being, our future – all these are a lot more important than a sage grouse.
However this thinking is fatally flawed. It is, in fact, in my own interest to put sage grouse first. All these other priorities mentioned above are dependent on the well-being of nature and the continued existence of the earth as a living planet.
Sage grouse are not just one species (actually two species), they occupy the same habitat as many dozens of other species – birds, mammals, insects, fish, reptiles, plants, trees, grasses – for example honey bees that are necessary for human agriculture. The water that they drink and the air that they breathe are the same water and air that we also depend on.
Whenever a natural species goes extinct, all other species in that eco-system are weakened because all, including us, are interdependent. The extinction of a species is not without consequence. When the eco-system is weakened past the point of no return, all the species in that system will die.
We are like a person standing on the outer edge of the limb of a tree branch, sawing away the branch out from under our feet. When the branch falls, so will we.
No, it is not true that we can build cities on every inch of land on the face of the earth, with highways and air-conditioned high-rises occupying every bit of space, and that we can put all our trash into the sea until the seas are dead, and then we can escape to Mars and start the whole process all over again. It will not work. We will end up extinct – very soon.
Whether we care only about the human race and ourselves, or whether we care about the innocence and beauty of the natural world, the conclusion is exactly the same – if we wish to survive, we must put wildlife and wildlife habitat first, not last. It is not just our congressional representatives who need to be more intelligent, wiser, and more effective, it is us.
Whether we win or lose, whether we do or do not survive, isn’t the real question.
Standing by idly on the sidelines, preoccupied with our own personal interests, as our fellow human beings wage war against mother earth is just not a very honorable course of action (or inaction).
So that is one reason for protecting the Sage Grouse. And the other reason is that, like all species in nature, they are beautiful, innocent beings, who have been given the gift of life, and who are we to take it away from them?
We need to revise our priorities.
To read the article “Congress’s hostile takeover of endangered species efforts” by Eric Molvar, of WildEarth Guardians, in The Hill, click here:
Top photo: Stan Shebs / Wikipedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Black Sagebrush, a native plant common to sage grouse habitat, throughout the west.
Second photo: Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. / Wikimedia Commons / A male Sage Grouse.
Third photo: Steve from Washington, D.C. /
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. / A North American Beaver; beavers restore natural habitat.