Commission hears report on sage grouse protection
The Emery County Commission heard a report from Todd Black concerning the sage grouse management plan. He works as a Utah State extension specialist and has been heavily involved in sage grouse management. Black showed trends in populations of the sage grouse over the years. Male sage grouse live in leks and there are three areas in Emery County which contain sage grouse. They aren't a predominant bird in the county, but the spots where they are living must be protected and preserved. Sage grouse seem to do well when they have good weather and good food. Hens roost about four miles from the leks with the male birds. Sage grouse live a long time up to 8-10 years. If there are two chicks per hen, it's considered a population sustaining amount. Sage grouse have many predators which is a problem in sustaining a healthy sage grouse population. The sage grouse diet consists mostly of sage brush. If the sage brush is healthy then the sage grouse in an area generally do well.
Historically sage grouse were spread across the state, but with urban growth and loss of habitat due to human activities the sage grouse are now confined to a much smaller area.
In 2009 a plan was passed which is a revision of the 2002 statewide plan. Black said it is a good plan and has set forth many worthwhile projects to maintain sage grouse. One of the reasons this is so important is to prevent listing on the endangered species list. A ruling last March said a listing of the sage grouse would be warranted, but due to lack of resources the listing would be precluded. The sage grouse is a candidate species.
Black said in San Juan County they have the Gunnison sage grouse.
One of the first projects was on the Parker Mountain where the sage grouse population has been increased dramatically through habitat projects.
In the management plan threats to the sage grouse were identified and solutions to the threats are being looked at and there is a variety of agencies involved in the management plan development and implementation. One of the main threats is development and loss of habitat. Black said there isn't much they can do about drought and weather conditions and disease in the birds themselves. The plan looks at what's going on now and plans for the future in protection of sage grouse. The working groups still meet a few times each year and take field trips to where the leks are located and to the habitat projects to see the progress being made.
Black said one major determining factors in listing will depend on Wyoming and how the sage grouse and the oil and gas developments can co-exist.
Black said he came to commission meeting to increase awareness for the sage grouse and to involve planning for the sage grouse in any development projects in their habitat. They are working closely with Bill Barrett Corporation on oil and gas developments in Carbon County.
Ray Petersen, public lands council director, said Emery County is on the periphery of the sage grouse habitat and the county is very much aware of and a part of the work for maintaining sage grouse in the county.