From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 4, Number 17 - July 22, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Grouse population leveling

by Bill Boender

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission held a regular meeting in Pinedale on July 15 and 16, hearing updates on several ongoing studies concerning endangered and threatened species. Joe Bohne presented an overview of study results concerning sage grouse population trends throughout the western states. The study shows that populations are trending steadily downward in most areas, but that the decline has leveled from a low in 1996 and has shown only a .3 percent drop per year in the years from 1986 through 2003.

The survey of 1,200 leks in Wyoming showed 17,500 males, indicating a total population in these lek areas of some 60,000 birds. As all leks were not observed, the total population is much higher.

Wyoming has the largest population of sage grouse and the least reduction in habitat of all the states concerned. The principal reductions in habitat are caused by fire and development for residential, agricultural and industrial uses. Gas development has been a significant factor in recent years in some areas of the state and efforts to mitigate this impact are receiving considerable attention.

Bohne emphasized that this study was an objective report and not a listing recommendation nor a strategy document. Much additional data will be needed in order to develop a plan to preserve or increase current population numbers.

John Emmerich presented the commissioners an update on the process to address grizzly bear occupancy. With population numbers exceeding minimums established and the distribution goal met, delisting is expected to occur by early 2005. A plan is being prepared to establish bear numbers based on biologically suitable and socially acceptable areas of the established recovery zone.

A draft proposal is expected to be presented to the commission in October of this year, followed by a period of public comments in December along with some twelve public meetings to be held across the state. A final proposal will then be presented to the commission at their April 2005 meeting.

Special meetings will be scheduled with county commissioners, especially in Fremont, Park, Sublette and Lincoln counties where they have expressed strong concerns about grizzly management, populations and controls.

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