Fires pose major threat to grouse habitat |

Fires pose major threat to grouse habitat

Staff Reports

Even as conservationists were hailing a court victory in the battle to preserve the bi-state sage grouse, flames from the Numbers Fire were threatening the bird’s habitat in the southern Pine Nuts.

There are only three viable leks in the Pine Nuts, according to a 2019 report issued by the bi-state sage grouse working group.

Conservationists plan a lawsuit against the federal government in an effort to have the bird, which lives along the Nevada California border, listed as an endangered species.

Last week, a Nevada District Court judge denied off-roaders’ attempts to gut protections for the imperiled bird in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

Conservation groups had intervened to defend U.S. Forest Service measures that protected the bird’s breeding and nesting habitat from motorized rallies and contests by requiring buffers and seasonal limits to racing in the area.

The lawsuit, brought by the Sierra Trail Dogs Motorcycle and Recreation Club, sought to strike down a forest plan amendment that blocked motorcycle and off-road vehicle races and contests in sage-grouse breeding and nesting habitats during the spring and early summer, when those areas are most important for sage-grouse nest success and chick survival. Today’s ruling means the club must abide by the Forest Service requirements.

The Bi-State sage-grouse population is isolated from all other sage-grouse populations in the Mono Basin along the California-Nevada border. There are an estimated 3,305 total birds, far below the 5,000-bird minimum viable population threshold established by sage-grouse experts. Conservation groups are also in court to challenge the denial of Endangered Species Act protections for the Bi-State sage-grouse.

While conservationists blame human activity for the grouse’s decline, significant fires have taken their toll on habitat located in Douglas County.