The big federal spending bill. Wolves not removed from endangered list. (Revised on Dec. 18)

Land and Water Conservation Fund reauthorized-
Wildlife and Earth-trashing riders were deleted-

There is some good news in the massive spending bill to fund the government. A months long battle to prevent a rider that would delist wolves in the Great Lakes and Wyoming was successful. The wolves will remain on the endangered species list in these four states where endangered status was recently restored by a federal judge. Relisting of the greater sage grouse was denied funding for the fiscal year.

Here is the sage grouse language:

SEC. 117. None of the funds made available by this or any other Act may be used by the Secretary of the Interior to write or issue pursuant to section 4 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1533)—
(1) a proposed rule for greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus);
(2) a proposed rule for the Columbia basin distinct population segment of greater sage-grouse.”

On the other hand, the bill earmarked $60 million for sage grouse habitat conservation, a nearly fourfold increase over current spending limits. Unfortunately, it is likely this will be wasted “restoring” rangelands by rolling, chopping, and burning juniper woodlands, creating monocultures that are little use to anything by cows,certainly not sage grouse.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has funded federal land acquisitions since 1965, was not left dead. It was reauthorized for three years at 450-million dollars. This is more than the past fiscal year’s 300-million. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and others had tried to prevent it from being funded. This summer and fall its future looked bleak, but it was turned around, perhaps by ending the 40-year ban on oil exports. This was a great sweetener for Republicans, including Bishop. 

Bishop had argued the fund is buying up millions of acres of private land. Bishop is one of the Utah ringleaders that are trying to get U.S. public lands given to the states. Most of the fund’s federal land acquisition actually goes for inholdings inside national parks and monuments and other public land units.

The Land and Water Conservation fund has never seen appropriations at its highest authorized level of $900-million. In addition, 60% of the fund annually must go to the states. The majority is not for federal land acquisition. The revenue in the fund does not come from general federal revenues, but from oil and gas leasing royalties. The fund is the major way inholdings are acquired, and the backlog of authorized acquisitions is $21-billion. Forty per cent of 450-million will not dent the backlog by much.

Perhaps most importantly, scores of anti-conservation “poison pill” Republican riders attached to the measure were dumped at the insistence of the Democrats in exchange for giving the oil companies what they wanted.

The bill has now (Dec. 18) passed both and House and the Senate. The President will sign it.
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Here are some stories that have recently appeared about the conservation side of the budget bill that will be law.


  1. WM Avatar

    It is awesome the Land and Water Conservation fund appears to have made it for another 3 years of funding, even though it is not nearly enough to make much progress on essential land acquisitions or maintenance. If any Yellowstone winter range were ever to be acquired with federal money it would likely come from this source.

    The interesting question is what political dynamics were involved in the wolf delisting rider being sidelined (for now)?

  2. Jeff Avatar

    Will this provide the funds to acquire the state land inholdings on Antelope Flats in GTNP?

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan


      Yes it will, although it will be up to the Department of Interior as to which projects are actually funded.

      1. Jeff Avatar


  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    A news email from the Sierra Club today provided very interesting information why the numerous anti-conservation, anti-wildlife, and many anti-environmental Republican riders died. It was the acceptance of the Republican’s strong desire to allow oil exports.

    The email read in part:

    “Democrats, despite being in the minority, extracted a high price as part of the deal, including a five-year extension of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar energy projects, a five-year extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy projects, a three-year extension of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the removal of hundreds of disastrous environmental riders. Proposed poison pills that were thwarted include: repeals of public health standards for our water and air, blocking the implementation of the Clean Power Plan, deregulation of fracking on public lands, increased logging in our National Forests, delisting wolves from the Endangered Species Act, and a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.”

  4. Nancy Avatar

    Lawmakers question delays in energy lease sales

    “Much of the decline has been attributed to efforts to ensure a ground-dwelling bird, the greater sage grouse, is not imperiled by drilling”

  5. Louise Kane Avatar
    Louise Kane

    This is extremely disturbing footage of brutality against wolves/predators. This is exactly why wolves need continued protection, and why eventually I hope for a national predator protection act. it is hard to fathom this kind of cruelty. I’m grateful wolves were not used as a bartering chip again.

    By the way please help to make this video widely seen. As disturbing as it is, I think most people find it hard to imagine that this kind of sick brutality occurs. On learning what predator hunting entails, who could support this but the sick minority that engages.


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Ralph Maughan