The greater sage grouse is a chicken-sized bird that’s found on 172 million acres of western lands. The grouse population of nearly 500,000 birds in 11 states was managed effectively, primarily through state and private conservation efforts. That is until 2015, when the federal government asserted itself as the primary conservator of the species. The new federal rules that year complicate the conservation of the grouse, and threaten thousands of jobs in the West.
In an op-ed in National Review, Brian Seasholes, a policy fellow with the Property and Environment Research Center, and Todd Gaziano, project leader of Red Tape Rollback, explain how the Congressional Review Act can undo those federal rules.
The federal sage-grouse plans threaten numerous jobs other than ranching and unintentionally harm the sage grouse in the process. Fortunately, there are several potential fixes. The Interior Department is currently considering some administrative changes allowed by the existing rules. But very little can be done administratively without a four- to six-year process to modify the existing rules, which will probably be second-guessed by federal judges. Legislation is another option, but threatened filibusters in the Senate stopped previous legislative fixes.
There is, however, a simple way forward. The most promising option for sage-grouse conservation is to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to sweep away the destructive federal plans, allowing state plans and private conservation efforts to work as intended and permitting federal regulators to consider substantially different management plans that work in tandem, instead of at cross-purposes, with state plans and private efforts.
The federal sage-grouse plans, which were implemented with four main “Records of Decision” (RODs), went through most of the legally required steps before publication, but they were never formally submitted to Congress for its review under the CRA. Congressional awareness of rules does not trigger CRA review.
There is no doubt that the four RODs (two by the Bureau of Land Management and two by the Forest Service) are the type of rules that must be formally submitted to Congress for its review. There also is no doubt that the two agencies failed to do so — at least not yet.