|State commits $300K to helping Greater Sage-grouse|
|Written by Wild Nevada|
|Wednesday, 07 November 2012 16:10|
The $304,000 allocated by the Legislative Interim Finance Committee will be used to implement key recommendations identified by Gov. Brian Sandoval's Greater Sage-grouse Advisory Committee. In addition to the council, the state is creating a “multidisciplinary, interagency Sagebrush Ecosystem Technical Team” and hiring three regional specialists to coordinate on-the-ground efforts to identify and protect crucial sagebrush habitat for the bird.
The population of sage-grouse has plunged from more than 16 million a hundred years ago to less than 500,000 today. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded that both the Greater Sage-grouse, found in 11 Western states and nine Nevada counties, and the Bistate Sage-grouse, a related bird found in five Nevada counties, warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act. The FWS is going to re-examine the Bistate Sage-grouse’s status in September 2013 and the Greater Sage-grouse in September 2015.
Although some Interim Finance Committee member said they were leery of including the $300,000 in the upcoming 2014-15 biennial budget because the state is short of cash, state officials said a listing would have a powerful impact on the state’s economy by putting huge swaths of rural Northern Nevada off limits to such activities as mining, agriculture and outdoor recreation.
"A council, technical team and regional specialists are essential in identifying, prioritizing and implementing both large and smaller-scale projects that protect and improve the sagebrush ecosystem and conserve the Greater Sage-grouse," said Leo Drozdoff, director of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. "The primary threats to the species were recently clarified by the Governor's Advisory Committee and a coordinated approach — demonstrating the state's leadership, conviction and commitment — is necessary to produce accomplishments that minimize these threats and underscore Nevada's ability to manage the bird to avoid listing."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service committed $40,000 to fund the council during the remainder of state fiscal year 2013.
Oddly, the announcement from the Governor’s office made no mention of the Bistate Sage-grouse, which occupies a smaller environment along the Nevada-California border and whose listing deadline is less than a year away.
The approved Sagebrush Ecosystem Technical Team will have five members, including a working team coordinator, a wildlife specialist, a wildfire prevention, suppression and rehabilitation specialist, an agriculture and range invasive weed specialist and a state lands' environmental science specialist. The team will be co-located in Carson City and will provide a single point of focus within state government for all stakeholders and members of the public in relation to Greater Sage-grouse issues. The technical team will coordinate closely with the three regional specialists to be located in Winnemucca, Elko and Ely.