Volume 3, Number 3 - April 17, 2003
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Commission meets today
The Sublette County Commission is slated to hold its regular business meeting today, Thursday, April 17, in the county annex in Marbleton. The Sublette County Purchase of Development Rights Working Group is scheduled to present its recommendations to the commission at 2 p.m. Two hours has been set aside to hear comments on the issue, which includes a recommendation to allocate $1 million for a pilot program.
Jonah hearing and rally tonight
The Bureau of Land Management has begun the public scoping process for the preparation of an environmental impact statement for the Jonah Infill Drilling Project.
The agency will host a public meeting on Thursday, April 17, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Sublette County Library in Pinedale.
In addition, supporters of Jonah Field development will hold a resource providers barbecue from 3 to 5 the same afternoon, at the Pinedale Entertainment Center.
Pygmy rabbit petition filed
A coalition of six conservation groups, including Western Watersheds Project and the Committee for the High Desert, recently petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list pygmy rabbits in the Intermountain and Great Basin regions of the West as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
Pygmy rabbits have been documented to occur in Sublette County and are known to occur in the Jonah gas field.
Also joining in the petition are the American Lands Alliance, Oregon Natural Desert Association, Center for Native Ecosystems and Biodiversity Conservation Alliance.
The groups want FWS to designate critical habitat for the rare rabbits concurrent with ESA listing. The petition applies to all remaining pygmy-rabbit populations outside the remnant Washington State population.
"The pygmy rabbit is a unique species that has already been lost from more than 90 percent of its historic range," said Katie Fite, conservation director of the Committee for the High Desert. "Livestock continue to destroy the structure of sagebrush plants that are essential to the rabbits' survival."
Pygmy rabbits depend on sagebrush for 99 percent of their winter diet. Sagebrush also provides them with critical cover from predators.
The groups largely blame domestic livestock grazing for the demise of the species, but notes: "Other dire threats to pygmy rabbits include prescribed fires; manipulation of vegetation for livestock forage; oil, gas and coalbed methane exploration and production; geothermal exploration and production; and road-building and off-highway vehicle use."
"We are concerned that this animal's specialized sagebrush habitat needs and unique behavior make it particularly vulnerable to the impacts of unchecked energy development like that taking place right now on BLM lands in Wyoming," said Jeff Kessler, conservation director of the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance there. "The BLM has repeatedly failed to adopt needed conservation measures while the pygmy rabbit marches toward extinction. ESA protection is therefore absolutely necessary."
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