A packed house of Churchill County residents voiced their concerns about the possible land restrictions caused by the sage grouse at the second meeting of January of the county commissioners.
Tim Rubald, program manager of Nevada’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Program, presented an overview of the state’s involvement in the various aspects of the activities currently surrounding the sage grouse.
Rubald said in March 2012 Gov. Brian Sandoval issued an executive order that created the sage grouse advisory committee, and on July 31, 2012, the committee submitted a document that is referred to as the State Plan, which was accepted.
The program consisted of a multi-council and departments that have come together for the greater good, Rubald said. He said Sandoval has asked his team to do everything they can to keep the sage grouse from being listed on the endangered list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“We have a state alternative and we are trying very hard to make it the preferred alternative,” Rubald said. “And we have a lot of time to work on that but it is moving very quickly. The comment period for that ends Jan. 29.”
Rubald said his staff has a number of responsibilities, some of which include the following: Develop sage grouse habitat suitability maps for Nevada, consult with project proponents in coordination with the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service, develop FWS data call and database development and other responsibilities as pertinent to goals and assigned by the Sagebrush Ecosystem Council.
Rubald said he hopes the FWS will accept the conservation credit system as a primary regulatory mechanism to meet the objective of the No Net Unmitigated Loss of sage grouse habitat due to anthropogenic disturbances. He said his team hired a consultant to develop metrics and an overall system and already have a team working and producing product for the conservation credit system.
Rubald said his team contracted with Dr. Pete Coates to develop a map, similar to the Bi-State mapping effort. He said it is a collaborative effort among several parties to collect the data.
Rubald said the FWS data call and database development will gather all project data in September 2014, a report will be established and a public database will be available with the information on ecosystem projects so it can be shared.
Once Rubald completed his presentation, the commissioners opened the floor to residents with concerns and/or questions.
“I’ve attending most of the meetings and so have several people in this room,” county resident Jim Falk said. “The land is poorly managed and I don’t think the technical team you (Rubald) have put together has any idea on how to correct this.”
Falk urged the commissioners to look into what the council is doing before they agree to anything.
Churchill County resident Bob Clifford said he attended a scientific meeting in Reno for one of the committees and found the discussions were merely based on opinions and not proven facts.
Commissioner Pete Olsen asked Rubald how the Nevada Plan has become the preferred plan.
“There are three processes going on with the program, addressing Environmental Impact Statement through comments, state alternative which I believe you all are going through and revising the State Plan,” responded Rubald. “These have three separate time lines and are similar but different documents.”
Rubald said this research is a court ordered process from the FWS to determine whether or not to list the sage grouse as endangered. He said this court order covers 11 western states and by September 2015 a proposed decision must be made to the sage grouse designator.
“The court decision told Fish and Game that they had to do something about the sage grouse, so are there any other legal actions being taking by any of the 11 states to try to reverse the district court action?” Commissioner Bus Scharmann asked.
“Not that I’m aware of but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened before I got involved in this but I haven’t seen anything,” Rubald said.
Scharmann said he worries about the ranchers, the mining industry, the wilderness areas and the land. He said he worries more about those things than he does about the sage grouse.
Churchill County Associate Planner Terri Pereira addressed the commissioners about Churchill County’s comments on the Nevada and Northeastern California Greater sage grouse draft Land use Plan Amendment and Environmental Impact statement.
Pereira said the BLM environmental impact statement was handed out last fall, and counties could make comments. She said the comments that she submitted were not addressed in the updated version of the environmental impact statement. She said the biggest impact to the sage grouse, though, is fire and invasive species.
“It seems logical to me that if the biggest threat is fire or invasive species that listing this bird is not going to do any good, because it’s not going to change those factors.”
She said she suggested in her comments that Alternative E Plan be used since it has specific actions for those problems.
Clifford commented on Pereira’s presentations. He said he believes the Department of Interior has an agenda to get people off the land and to lock it up to make it a wilderness area.
“At the meetings I’ve attended they say they can’t do anything about fire, wild horses, etc., but they can do something about habitats,” Clifford said. “They want to control the habitats.”
He said the great thing about the state plan is it deals with fire and invasive species that the federal government refuses to deal with.
The commissioners approved the county manager to submit comments electronically for a signed letter with the edits that have been recommended to the additional comments.
County Manager Eleanor Lockwood presented her suggestions regarding the draft bill that Nevada Sens. Harry Reid and Dean Heller. Lockwood said she thinks it would be beneficially if a representative from their offices would come out and discuss the bill so resident and the commissioners could better understand it.
Commissioners approved Lockwood’s suggestion to send letter to the senators’ offices to request a representative to come to Fallon to talk to the county about the bill.
Other items discussed and/or approved include the following:
Update on 2013 Point in Time Homeless Count and upcoming 2014 count.
Approved annual report from State of Nevada, Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child and Family Services.
Approved to proceed with development of Churchill County Court Appointed Special Advocate program membership and program development, subject to award of grant funding.
Approved agreement with SESAC to pay $343 for permit use of musical performances during county related activities.
Approved professional service agreement with GEM Consulting for the provision of lobbying services to Churchill County through Dec. 31.
Approved to reappoint members to the Board of Equalization: Bob Getto for four years with a term expiring on Dec. 31, 2017; Greg Jackson for a partial term through Dec. 31, 2017; Kelly Rogne as an alternate for the next four years through Dec. 31, 2017 and Tom Riggins as an alternate to serve on the board through March 31, 2014, and to appoint him to fill the remainder of Greg Jackson’s term, from April 1, 2014 through Dec. 31, 2017.
Approved to reappoint Tom Lammel to the planning commission to fill a four-year term that expires on Dec. 31, 2017.