After weeks of negotiations, on December 18, 2015, Congress finally approved the Fiscal Year 2016 omnibus spending bill. One hotly debated issue related to the controversial greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). Republicans had hoped to include a rider rolling back the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service’s sage grouse conservation plans across 67 million acres in several Western states, including California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. This rider was ultimately cut from the bill. While the bill prevents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from listing the bird under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2016, it also earmarks $60 million for BLM to restore sage grouse habitat. Certain Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), were reportedly disappointed by this result.
While FWS may not be able to list the sage grouse, it recently announced that it will list two subspecies of African lion under the ESA. Specifically, lions in western and central Africa, as well as India (Panthera leo leo), will be listed as endangered, and lions in eastern and southern Africa (Panthera leo melanochaita) will be listed as threatened. According to FWS, lion populations have declined by 43 percent due to habitat loss, loss of prey base, and retaliatory killings by a growing human population.
The listing will afford ESA protection to the lion subspecies, which means that certain activities, including import, export, commercial activity, and interstate and foreign commerce, will be more heavily regulated. FWS believes that this will ensure that people under the jurisdiction of the United States do not contribute to the further decline of listed species.