Last month, lawmakers introduced a new bill aimed at improving and protecting habitat for mule deer and sage grouse. The Sage-Grouse and Mule Deer Habitat Conservation and Restoration Act, HR 3543, is sponsored by U.S. Reps. Chris Stewart (Utah) and Scott Tipton (Colorado). Its goal? To “streamline the approval process for vegetation management projects” that would benefit both mule deer and sage-grouse across the West, St. George News reports.
Invasive plants like Piña and Juniper trees have infiltrated the sagebrush landscape, which is the primary habitat for sage grouse and mule deer. Not only have these non-native plants impacted specific habitat for these animals, but the plants contribute to hazardous wildfire conditions – fires that some western states have been battling all summer. Passage of HR 3543 would allow Bureau of Land Management land managers to “quickly engage in habitat restoration and proactive vegetation management projects to protect the species and improve ecological conditions,” according to St. George News.
Stewart and Tipton had strong statements as to why HR 3543 is an important piece of legislation.
“In order to protect mule deer and sage-grouse populations in Utah and across the West, we must protect their habitat,” said Stewart. “The review process for vegetation management has become too cumbersome and time consuming. This legislation removes bureaucratic red tape and gives land managers the tools needed to protect and preserve this precious habitat.”
“The current vegetation management process isn’t allowing Western states to keep up with the rapid growth of invasive species in sagebrush habitat,” said Tipton. “To combat invasive species effectively, we must streamline the process through which BLM must go to protect and restore threatened habitats and address potential areas of concern. Our bill cuts through the unnecessary red tape that has prevented BLM from acting quickly in the past.”
The bill, which was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources for review, also has support from the Mule Deer Foundation.