Amodei, Jewell in lively feud over sage grouse

U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell have a pretty lively feud going over the sage grouse.

The Obama administration is stewing over a rider Amodei stuck onto the year-end government spending bill that prohibits the Fish and Wildlife Service from meeting a September 2015 deadline to finalize rules listing the chicken-sized desert bird as endangered or threatened.

Amodei, from Carson City, says he doesn’t believe the administration is doing enough to avoid a listing, which could wall off tracts of land across the West and disrupt ranchers, miners and others who make a living off the range. Conservationists say the process is working just as it should.

Faced with the restriction, Interior officials said they will do everything short of putting sage grouse regulations into effect. They will continue to work with governors of Western states to find ways to protect habitat for the bird while collecting data to support a final decision.

Then Jewell cranked it up a bit.

“It’s disappointing that some members of Congress are more interested in political posturing than finding solutions to conserve the sagebrush landscape and the Western way of life,” she said in a statement. “Rather than helping the communities they profess to benefit, these members will only create uncertainty, encourage conflict and undermine the unprecedented progress that is happening throughout the West.”

Amodei was not happy. According to aides, he was further irritated because the secretary’s statement was issued to the media four hours before a copy was sent to him.

Amodei: “The resort to shallow political attacks does not hide the fact Ms. Jewell’s department chose, through budgetary inaction, not to make any attempt to avoid an endangered species listing.

“I look forward to an in-depth discussion on the issue to start the 114th Congress, instead of CYA news releases issued when nobody is in town,” Amodei said. CYA is an acronym for “Cover Your (Backside).”

The Nevada Republican said he hoped Jewell would reconsider her “incendiary” communications strategy.

“There are a lot of great people working very hard on the sage hen issue in the West, and Interior needs to show some respect to them instead of defaulting to tired political agendas,” he said.

— Steve Tetreault

FUNERAL HOME PROPOSAL WINS

It might have been the liveliest discussion about dead people that Las Vegas City Hall has ever seen.

City Council members Wednesday narrowly approved Davis Funeral Home’s request to move into a vacant building just west of the storied Scotch 80s neighborhood but not before hearing 30 minutes of testimony and holding three separate votes on the topic.

Davis’ apparently routine request for a permit needed to renovate and move into the old Memphis BBQ restaurant at 1401 S. Rainbow Blvd. sparked opposition from three neighbors concerned that the funeral home would stifle their property values and attract unwieldy traffic.

It also attracted attention from doctors at an adjacent shopping complex, some of whom feared the funeral home could reflect poorly on those in the business of “giving life.”

That didn’t sit well with Davis’ backers on the City Council.

“That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” Councilman Steve Ross said of the doctors’ complaints. “I think you’re scared of a big green monster that isn’t there.”

Ross was joined in support for the item by Councilmen Bob Beers and Stavros Anthony.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman — who has lived near Davis’ current location on West Charleston Boulevard for more than three decades — also gave an impassioned speech backing the funeral home’s relocation.

Then she promptly disappeared, stepping off the dais to “take care of other business” while a deadlocked panel of city leaders seesawed over the move.

Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, who represents neighbors opposed to Davis’ relocation, eventually brought a motion to deny the proposal. Minutes later, Ross sponsored a motion to approve it. Both failed on a 3-3 tie, apparently killing Davis’ move west up Charleston Boulevard.

Then, midway through the next planning agenda item, Goodman suddenly reappeared, prompting Mayor Pro Tem Stavros Anthony to reopen a vote on the funeral home over loud objections from Tarkanian.

It passed 4-2, with Tarkanian abstaining.

“I’m going to abstain on this,” the Ward 1 councilwoman said. “The reason I’m abstaining is because the political machinations just don’t appeal to me.

“I can take a no vote, I can take a loss, but the manner in which this occurred. … I just don’t feel it has the integrity it should have.”

Jennifer Lazovich, the attorney representing Davis, had to be rushed back in to the City Council chambers to hear Las Vegas leaders sudden U-turn on the funeral home.

Tarkanian remains unconvinced the vote was binding but said there’s little left to do about it.

“I think it was an illegal vote,” she said Thursday. “You can’t just walk out, come back in and vote. There wasn’t even time for people to ask questions about it.”

Representatives with Davis Funeral Home plan to start moving into their new digs in February.

— James DeHaven

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow @STetreaultDC on Twitter. Contact James DeHaven at jdehaven@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3839. Follow @JamesDeHaven on Twitter.

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