From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 18 - August 1, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Grouse plan out for public comment

by Cat Urbigkit

At last week's Wyoming Game and Fish Commission meeting in Evanston, the commission received the draft sage grouse conservation plan from its 18-member working group and set the schedule for soliciting public input on the plan.

Group facilitator Bob Budd said the draft plan calls for adaptive management rather than "a heavy-handed 'thou shall not' approach." Its guiding principle is "if we are going to conserve sage grouse on the ground, it will not happen without local working groups," Budd said.

Several members of the working group addressed the commission, emphasizing the need to use local working groups to address grouse concerns at the local level.

Bryce Reece of Wyoming Wool Growers Association commented, "I am pleasantly surprised by the end result," but issued a word of caution as well. Citing the state's grizzly bear plan, Reece said: "The problem was what was adopted was radically different than what the public was given the opportunity to comment on. That's the rub.

"As it is now, we will accept and work with the commission and the department with this plan," Reece said.

The commission agreed to issue the draft grouse plan for public comment, which will be accepted from Aug. 1 through Sept. 30. The plan will be posted on the agency's website and will be available for review at local libraries this week. No public meetings or workshops will be held, but written comments will be accepted. Those comments will all be compiled verbatim into a special report and content analysis and submitted to the working group by Nov. 15. The working group has until the Jan. 24 meeting to submit any further information to the commission, and a final action on the plan will be taken by the commission at its Feb. 24 meeting.

The plan does call for the use of local working groups, including one for this Upper Green River Basin area. Local representation on the citizen working group that developed the statewide plan included Linda Baker, Joel Bousman and Albert Sommers.

While the grouse plan recognizes that "the general public, especially Wyoming citizens, have a role in sage grouse conservation," it calls for limiting the distribution of grouse lek site information to avoid stressing birds, while at the same time calling for human avoidance near leks during the breeding season.

The plan recommends restricting antler hunting in grouse nesting habitat. Other recommendations include avoiding habitat alteration on or within a quarter-mile of the perimeter of lek sites.

"As a general rule, do not drill or conduct new or expand existing mining activities within two miles of active leks between March 15 to July 15," the plan recommends.

While the role of predation should be better quantified, the plan noted that predator control to enhance survival should be targeted only to predators identified as impacting that grouse population.

The 70-page plan offers an overview of a large variety of issues affecting grouse in Wyoming, but cautions that its statewide recommendations need to be adapted to fit local conditions.

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