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The Trump administration has pushed the greater sage grouse, an iconic American species and bellwether for a healthy sagebrush ecosystem, on a fast track toward extinction by prioritizing special interests above the needs of Western communities. At a time when sage grouse are facing serious threats to their survival like increased oil and gas leasing and drilling in priority habitat, Montanans want stronger federal protections for the bird. Instead, the Trump administration has abdicated its responsibility to manage and protect the species and sagebrush landscapes — an inherently federal duty — by recently proposing disastrous changes to the 2015 Forest Service plans.

Nearly a decade of hard work and collaboration among a diverse set of stakeholders across the West, including Montanans, went into crafting the Forest Service management plans. The widely supported plans were finalized to protect the sage-grouse, its habitat, 350 other species of wildlife that depend on sagebrush to thrive, and support the $1 billion dollar annual outdoor recreation sector that fuels local economies. Combined with Secretary David Bernhardt’s move to gut the Department of the Interior’s sage grouse conservation plans earlier this year, the bird’s future is more uncertain than ever.

Gov. Steve Bullock must rebuke the Trump administration’s attacks on the 2015 plans to prevent the demise of this American ecosystem. The longer Montana leaders refuse to stand up for federal protections for the bird and its habitat, the more difficult it will be to undo the damage that has already been done, leaving nothing left for anyone to protect.

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Linda Healow

Billings

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