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MEMBER ALERT: ENDANGERED SPECIES: FWS proposes listing for 1 sage grouse subpopulation

This is the biggest threat to our off road recreation that is looming. The Blue Ribbon Coalition (BRC) says that the mitigation efforts that will be proposed to save the sage grouse habitat will impact both casual and permitted use of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and BLM Carson District Lands. N4WDA will attend the FWS, Forest Service and BLM meetings and be involved in the opposition to the listing of this subpopulation. The following is a well-written article from that describes the threat. Larry Calkins ENDANGERED SPECIES: FWS proposes listing for 1 sage grouse subpopulation Scott Streater, E&E reporter Greenwire: Friday, October 25, 2013 The Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list as threatened a subpopulation of greater sage grouse found only in central California and southwest Nevada and to designate 1.8 million acres as critical habitat to help save the bird. Today’s proposal involves a genetically unique population of grouse found only in the two states, commonly referred to as the “bi-state” or Mono Basin population. And it includes a special rule that Fish and Wildlife says will provide increased flexibility for land-management practices that are intended to benefit this distinct grouse population. The bi-state population occurs at the westernmost periphery of the imperiled greater sage grouse’s 11-state range in a fragile area of sagebrush steppe that is particularly vulnerable to landscape disturbances. An estimated 5,000 bi-state grouse remain from a historic population that probably exceeded twice that number, according to Defenders of Wildlife. The proposed listing comes as the service is evaluating whether to list the much larger greater sage grouse population as threatened or endangered. An advance notice in today’s Federal Register says the bi-state population warrants listing as a threatened species mostly because of threats from invasive plant species and wildfires that destroy the sagebrush steppe habitat that the grouse depend upon for survival. Other threats include expanded renewable energy development in both states, according to the advance notice, and urban development, mining and climate change. A second advance notice states that the 1.8 million acres of critical habitat would encompass federal, state, tribal and private lands on four separate units in Carson City, Douglas, Lyon, Mineral and Esmeralda counties in Nevada, and in Alpine, Mono and Inyo counties in California. While critical habitat designations do affect how public land is managed, this designation would not have any impact on private landowners or any uses of lands that do not require federal permitting or funding, according to the service. Fish and Wildlife will formally post both notices in Monday’s Federal Register, kicking off a 60-day public comment period ending Dec. 27, said Jeannie Stafford, a service spokeswoman in Nevada. “We applaud the combined efforts of our federal, state and local partners, as well as private landowners across the species’ range, to address the significant challenges faced by the bi-state [population] of greater sage grouse,” Ren Lohoefener, regional director of Fish and Wildlife’s Pacific Southwest Region, said today in a statement. “These efforts are essential to the recovery of the species. Today’s proposal, based on the best available science, should not deter us from continuing our work on behalf of the bi-state [population] and its important sage brush habitat.” But today’s announcement concerns some industry and private property rights observers. Among them is Kent Holsinger, a Denver natural resources attorney who has represented the energy and agricultural industry in litigation involving the Gunnison sage grouse. Holsinger questioned the science of breaking up the larger greater sage grouse population into so-called distinct and genetically unique populations, like the bi-state population. “Any two individuals are ‘genetically distinct,’ so I’m quite dubious about making management decisions that affect people’s livelihoods on such a basis,” he said in an email. He also said a threatened listing often interferes with on-the-ground conservation work being done by private landowners and local governments. “That’s a theme that even FWS and other agencies have recognized in the past,” he said. “Coupled with the critical habitat [proposed designation] and the FWS rulemaking that would emasculate the ability to consider economics in such decisions, and I’d label this bad news for California and Nevada,” he said. But conservation leaders said the designation is long overdue. Groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project and Institute for Wildlife Protection have petitioned the agency over the past decade to list the bi-state grouse population. “The sage grouse in the Mono Basin are truly imperiled, not only by the same habitat loss and degradation facing every other sage grouse population, but also by their small numbers and isolation in one of the most ecologically sensitive areas of sagebrush in the West,” said Mark Salvo, federal lands policy analyst for Defenders of Wildlife. “With only a few, scattered populations [of] sage grouse remaining in the Mono Basin, it’s important that the service moves forward to conserve the bi-state grouse.” But a threatened listing does not mean the bird will be saved, Salvo added. “While we applaud and support the service’s proposed listing of the Mono Basin sage grouse as threatened, it is premature to determine whether the proposed rule will in fact conserve the sage grouse, since the devil will be in the details of the local sage grouse conservation plans that the rule relies upon,” he said.