Your recent article ("Catch up with wildlife bills this legislative session," March 3) ignored Senate Bill 299, a bill gutting mitigation requirements when the energy industry damages sage grouse habitat.
Gov. Steve Bullock ordered the mitigation program for state lands in 2014, but in exchange permitted development virtually atop the most important grouse breeding areas. With even this anemic grouse protection now threatened, industry pressure may destroy the last tool for state conservation efforts, echoing Secretary Ryan Zinke’s conservation roll-backs on federal lands.
SB 299 has been passing along party-line votes, so will likely go to the governor’s desk. Protecting even a facade of sage-grouse conservation from industrial appetites demands Bullock’s veto. Otherwise both Montana’s political parties will be culpable for moving sage grouse towards the endangered species list and extinction.
Ben Deeble, president,
Big Sky Upland
retired wildlife biologist,
U.S. Forest Service,