BLM questioned about sage grouse habitat

Terri Knutson, field director for the Bureau of Land Management’s Carson City District, addressed the Churchill County Commissioners at their second meeting of November on Wednesday regarding the greater sage grouse and its possible induction into the Endangered Species Act.

In background information provided to the commissioners from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the greater sage grouse is on the candidate list for the Endangered Species Act. Since the number of sage grouse is large enough and distributed across a large portion of the Western United States, there is not an urgency to put the birds on the endangered list.

FWS is proposing to designate approximately 1.86 million acres of sage grouse habitat for Distinct Population Segment (DPS). The habitat will encompass federal, state, tribal, and private lands within Carson City; Douglas, Lyon, Mineral and Esmeralda counties; and counties in California.

Several residents questioned the policies and the Bi-State Distinct Population Segment of the Greater Sage Grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

“The people who are pushing these Environmental Impact Statement for the grouse … I don’t care anymore about them than they cared about the spotted owl, snail darter, desert tortious or the butterflies down in Clark County,” Jim Falk said. “It’s merely a vehicle for them to push people around and get more control. If the Bi-State went away I don’t think it would have any impact on human beings, but if those two million acres are locked up against miners, ranchers, farmers and pleasure seekers … that’ll have a huge impact on humans.”

Bob Clifford asked about federal projects.

“I wonder if it is possible for residents to get a list of the different federal projects that have to do with the sage grouse that will impact us,” Clifford said. “There’s a new national sage grouse plan that is a huge threat the way it’s written and it covers the whole country.”

Knutson responded to both attendees’ concerns.

“From what I know and I’m far from an expert, for Nevada there are two EISs and plan amendments that are going on right now both for sage grouse that will impact us,” Knutson said.

Commissioner Pete Olsen voiced his concern with a blunt question: “Where are we headed with all of this because it looks like a train wreck to me?”

Knutson said she isn’t sure where it is headed.

“I’m just glad I don’t live in Elko County because the sage grouse has so much habitat there,” Knutson said. “FWS are trying to keep the sage grouse from becoming listed as an endangered species but once it becomes on the list it falls under a whole different realm.”

She added that the biggest threat to sage grouse habitats is wildfire.

“When we talk about the impact from wild horses and their grazing, or impacts from energy development … those all pale in comparison to the impact from wildfires,” Knutson said.

Other business discussed and/or approved included the following:

Approved renewal of the school bus lease with the Churchill County School District for the 2014 Ski Program.

Approved agreement to allow the Lahontan Valley Bird Dog Club to use county owned water to irrigate 175 feet for four years.

Approved emergency food and shelter funds totaling $2,950 to support the Social Services utilities stabilization program.

Approved to reopen the Community Development Block grant application process until Dec. 4 and set the final public hearing on Dec. 18 for final recommendations.

Approved revision to the contract between Churchill County and SPB Utility Services, Inc.

Approved appointment of Glen Wassmuth to the Northern Nevada Development Authority (NNDA) Board.


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