Your recent article “Sage grouse bill modified for industry hung up on amendments” (The Billings Gazette, April 9, 2019) is referring to Senate Bill 299, a bill gutting mitigation requirements when the energy industry damages sage grouse habitat. And the headline is somewhat misleading. The bill wasn’t modified for industry — it was written by industry.
Gov. Steve Bullock ordered the mitigation program for Montana’s sage grouse in 2014, but in exchange, permitted development virtually atop the most important grouse breeding areas. With even these grouse protection now threatened, industry pressure may destroy the last reliable tool for state conservation efforts, echoing Secretary Ryan Zinke’s conservation rollbacks last year on federal lands.
SB299 has been passing along party-line votes, so will likely go to the governor’s desk. Protecting sage grouse conservation from industrial appetites demands Bullock’s veto. Otherwise both Montana’s political parties will be culpable for moving sage grouse towards the endangered species list and extinction, an unprecedented fate for a bird in Montana.
Ben Deeble, president
Big Sky Upland