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Veterans Lobby to Keep Sage Grouse Plans in Place

A Colorado veteran who served as a sniper in Kosovo and Iraq is calling on leaders in Washington, D.C., to protect the greater sage-grouse habitat from energy development. (Getty Images)
A Colorado veteran who served as a sniper in Kosovo and Iraq is calling on leaders in Washington, D.C., to protect the greater sage-grouse habitat from energy development. (Getty Images)
June 15, 2017

DENVER -- Veterans from Colorado, Arizona and Montana are marching into the nation's capital to make sure riders are not attached to a defense bill that would block the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from protecting the greater sage grouse.

Garett Reppenhagen, Rocky Mountain director with the Vet Voice Foundation, said the National Defense Authorization Act shouldn't be used to reverse critical conservation efforts.

"It's a bill that's supposed to be used to prepare our soldiers and service members to go overseas and do the job we want them to do, not take away rights that they have when they come home, and take away the lands that they've helped defend,” Reppenhagen said.

Last week the Trump administration called for a review of plans to protect the sagebrush sea to find out if energy production is being negatively impacted. A new study by Western EcoSystems Technology found just 4 percent of sage grouse habitat overlaps with existing coal or oil and gas leases on federal land.

In 2015, the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture completed plans to manage the bird's habitat across 70 million acres in 10 Western states. Reppenhagen said the sage sea is part of his backyard in Colorado, and he wants the public lands that he swore to protect as a soldier to be available for future generations.

"There was a massive effort using the best scientific evidence and collaboration between stakeholders and state partners. Why not honor that democratic process?” he said. "The local communities have spoken on this, and I think the administration needs to listen."

Reppenhagen served in the U.S. Army's First Infantry Division on tours in Kosovo and Iraq. He said the ability to take advantage of Colorado's protected wilderness areas was critical to his transition back to civilian life after experiencing the traumas of war.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO