Op-ed: Federal grouse plan denies local economies the chance to grow

By Mark Compton

The Obama administration is at it again. The president’s musclebound regulators in Washington are once more attempting to usurp states’ authority and deny local economies the means to grow, boost employment or raise revenue.

The latest example comes as no surprise to those of us in the West. The Department of the Interior has proposed to withdraw at least 10 million acres of federal land from mining activity, an important source of high-wage jobs and a vital contributor to our manufacturing economy. And all to replace highly effective state conservation plans with a less-effective federal plan for a bird that doesn’t need federal protection and isn’t in danger of extinction.

Last month, the Secretary of the Interior yielded to western governors, state conservationists and industry and chose not to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. Governors had offered a compelling argument: Their states, in partnership with industry and conservationists, had already taken voluntary efforts to preserve sage grouse habitat. According to the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the bird’s population has increased 63 percent since 2013. But what the administration gives, it also takes away. In exchange for not listing the bird, the secretary decided — with no congressional consultation — to deny mining access to a vast tract of land that holds valuable minerals needed by our economy.

This decision won’t surprise anyone familiar with the administration’s regulatory appetite and frequent attempts to undermine state authority. But the mineral withdrawal, the largest in American history, is unnecessary and reckless all the same. (…)

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