Veterans Are Getting Riled Up About Sage Grouse. Here’s Why.

Hundreds of veterans are calling on Congress to scrap a seemingly unrelated attachment to this year’s defense spending bill.

Around 500 signatures on a letter from the Vet Voice Foundation are calling for a clean National Defense Authorization Act.  Right now it includes an attachment that mandates sage grouse be kept off the endangered species list for at least 10 years.

Colorado Vet Garett Reppenhagen wrote the letter calling for a clean bill.  He says veterans don’t want the bill tied up in a controversial debate over wildlife conservation.

“Having served our country and put a lot of skin in the game to make sure this country is safe,” said Reppenhagen, “we don’t want to see the thing we rely on to fund the troops to be spoiled.”

The attachment was introduced by U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who argues that protecting sage grouse habitat hinders military operations.  

Reppenhagen disagrees.

“It’s sometimes packaged as a readiness issue for the military,” he said, “because some of the habitat of the sage grouse does cross over into military installations.”

But Reppenhagen says he’s heard from the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force and the Pentagon confirming that military operations are not disrupted by ongoing habitat protections.  

The House is hoping to vote on the bill before August.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.