Posted by: Dennis Hinkamp on Feb 25, 2010

Community Groups Helping Sage Grouse

Contact: Terry Messmer 435-797-3796, terry.messmer@usu.edu
 
SAGE-GROUSE CONSERVATION STRONG IN UTAH THANKS TO COMMUNITY EFFORTS
 
            LOGANThe United States Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) will announce its decision in listing the sage-grouse as an endangered or threatened species Feb. 26. This decision will reflect the species status and the USFWS beliefs regarding the risk of extinction.
In 1990, the UDWR estimated that sage-grouse in Utah occupied only 50 percent of their previous habitat and were half as abundant as they were prior to the 1850s.
            To reverse Utah’s sage-grouse population declines, the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) created the state’s Strategic Sage-grouse Conservation Plan in 2002. The plan was revised in 2009. The UDWR, the Department of Natural Resources and Utah State University Extension have worked to engage local communities and land owners in implementing conservation actions identified in the plan to conserve the Gunnison and greater sage-grouse species and their natural habitats.
According to Jason Robinson, UDWR upland game coordinator, the sage-grouse working groups established under the plan fulfill Utah community needs for direct involvement in conservation decisions. Since creation, the groups have developed and are implementing community-based conservation plans to benefit sage-grouse and other species and manage the uncertainty a potential listing could bring.
“Local working groups consist of a very diverse group of members and are open to anyone who is interested in sage-grouse management and sagebrush ecosystems in their community,” Robinson said. “There are 10 local working groups in Utah. All meet on a regular basis and are implementing local conservation plans.”
As a result of the research conducted for the project, public and private land owners have learned more about the ecology, distribution and response of sage-grouse management actions. 
“Several publications on sage-grouse management have been published and made available to interested parties through Web sites,” Robinson said. “The information gained will assist local sage-grouse working groups in complying with conservation plan reporting requirements set forth by USFWS.”
Information can be accessed at www.utahcbcp.org and www.sgrp.usu.edu.
The successes of the Utah Community-based Conservation Program are evident in the increasing numbers of sage-grouse in Utah. Local working groups have more plans for the future to meet the missions of the project, which include conservation of sage-grouse and protection of economic livelihoods of Utah communities.
“Sage-grouse populations in Utah are stable to increasing as habitat is protected and improved,” said Terry Messmer, Utah State University Extension wildlife specialist “Currently, the anxiety over the pending USFWS decision is causing some to lash out in the media and over the Web. Regardless of the decision, Utah’s local working groups will continue to work toward species conservation while sustaining local community socio-economics. The UDWR has set in place a process that has afforded local communities ownership in conservation that can sometimes become an overly bureaucratic process.”
For more information regarding what Utah communities are doing to conserve sage-grouse and other species, visit the Utah Community-based Conservation Program at http://www.utahcbcp.org.
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