Sage grouse restoration effort comes to Minden
December 23, 2012
An effort to gather public comment on an amendment to the forest plan to restore habitat for the greater sage grouse will visit Minden and Smith Valley in early January.Keeping the grouse from being named an endangered species has been a long-term project for Nevadans. State officials approved spending around $300,000 in October to fund an effort to show the federal government that Nevada is on top of protecting the bird and that listing it as endangered isn’t necessary.However, a report issued by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said listing the bird as endangered was warranted, prompting the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to prepare amendments to their plans to help preserve the bird’s habitat. The fish & wildlife service found that a lack of regulation was a significant threat to the sage grouse.“The need for the forest service and BLM plan amendments stems from the publication of a ‘warranted, but precluded’ Endangered Species Act listing petition … in March of 2010 by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service,” said Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Supervisor Bill Dunkelberger. Listing the bird as endangered could affect uses on federal lands such as grazing or mining, which could result in increased costs to engage in those activities.The grouse lives in portions of Lyon, Mineral, Esmeralda, and Douglas counties in Nevada, and in portions of Alpine, Inyo, and Mono Counties in California, according to The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest officials who are seeking input from residents of the counties.The area covers the Bridgeport and Carson ranger districts, which are preparing an environmental impact statement, along with the Bureau of Land Management. Ideas for preserving sage grouse habitat include setting aside areas around sage grouse leks during mating seasons, using vegetation to improve sage grouse habitat, and identifying guidelines for minerals management and other permitted activities to reduce impacts to the sage grouse and its habitat.The federal effort covers about 1.37 million acres of mapped habitat, including 448,000 acres on the BLM public lands and 685,000 acres on the national forest land in Nevada and California. “The completion of the forest plan and RMP amendments is the final piece of the package needed by USFWS as they begin their deliberation on whether or not to list the Bi-State sage grouse as a threatened or endangered species,” said Nevada BLM State Director Amy Lueders. Both the Bridgeport and Carson Ranger Districts are working to reduce impacts on sage grouse and their habitat by building protective measures into all of their projects for the past few years. These measures are not part of the current forest plan. “These management practices are successfully improving the habitat and population of the bi-state sage grouse,” said Carson Ranger District Ranger Genny Wilson. The public comment period ends on Jan. 30, 2012. The forest service will then prepare a draft environmental impact statement, which will be subject to public comment this summer.The goal is to have final statements completed by December 2013.