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Veterans in DC: Don't Weaken Sage Grouse Protections

Veteran Michael Jarnevic of Milltown, Mont., and the Vet Voice Foundation is in Washington, D.C., defending protections for sage grouse. (Vet Voice Foundation)
Veteran Michael Jarnevic of Milltown, Mont., and the Vet Voice Foundation is in Washington, D.C., defending protections for sage grouse. (Vet Voice Foundation)
June 15, 2017

HELENA, Mont. -- Veterans from the West, including Montana, are in Washington, D.C., today to tell Congress not to undermine the country's sage grouse management plans.

The Vet Voice Foundation is in town because the National Defense Authorization Act is on the table - and in years past, it has included riders that would weaken sage grouse protections. They're also speaking up about a recent order from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review state and federal plans to protect the endangered bird.

Michael Jarnevic of Milltown, Mont., fought in four wars, and said he's at the Capitol today defending the sage grouse.

"When we fought for this country, we were fighting not only for the political system, but for the vast range lands, especially in the West, that have populations of animals - flora and fauna - that are so important as icons of the United States of America,” Jarnevic said.

The veterans will meet with members and staff of both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to encourage them to pass the defense budget without any riders. Sage grouse habitat stretches across 11 western states.

Jarnevic said the sage grouse is an indicator species, meaning its status says a lot about the habitat's health overall. He said too many states are overly concerned with numbers when it comes to protecting these birds.

"What we want to see done is to protect the habitat, which is critical to the survival and flourishing of that particular species,” he said.

Jarnevic said these lands also are worth protecting because of the role they play for recovering veterans. He said many of his friends who have experienced trauma in war come to the West's wild lands to heal.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT