The Gunnison Sage-grouse Working Group met on Feb. 12 in Hotchkiss to share how the recent proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to grant Gunnison sage-grouse Endangered Species status would affect various agencies, ranchers and landowners. The proposal was announced on Jan. 10 and is being followed by a 60-day public comment period.
According to minutes by coordinator Doug Homan, the Gunnison Sage-grouse Working Group unanimously approved more Gunnison sage-grouse being transplanted to Crawford.
Their decision was made after Nate Seward of Colorado Parks and Wildlife gave a presentation on the 2011 and 2012 transplant results. Nine male Gunnison sage-grouse and six females were transplanted to Crawford from Gunnison in 2011. Thirty were transplanted in 2012. That group included 10 males and 20 females.
Of the total 45 birds, 10 died, 10 slipped their radios, two originally were heard but are now missing in action, four were never heard from and 19 are still alive and giving off a signal.
Tracking has shown that some Gunnison sage-grouse left Crawford, settling in Cimarron or at the Blue Mesa Reservoir. Of those, several have chosen to return to the Crawford population.
Doug Homan noted that the transplants were flocking with local birds.
It was decided the working group would submit written and approved comments by Homan to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the proposed Endangered Species listing. Each agency will also send its own comments.
Ken Holsinger of the Bureau of Land Management said they will be required to consult with the USFWS on all actions that might affect Gunnison sage-grouse. The agency is unsure how the Endangered Species listing, if approved, would affect grazing on BLM lands.
Homan brought up the issue that the critical habitat mapped by the USFWS was exactly the map that was done by the Division of Wildlife in the GIS mapping process. While the occupied habitat seems to fit critical habitat, the potentially suitable habitat definition may not exactly fit the critical habitat definition the USFWS used.
Dennis Garrison with the U.S. Forest Service stated his agency has some questions about the critical habitat designation and will submit comments.
Robbie LeValley, Delta County administrator, stated Delta County will submit comments. The Delta County Livestock Association will join with Gunnison County Livestock to make comments.
J Wenum of Colorado Parks and Wildlife said more genetic work of feather collection from lek sites will be done. There will be helicopter flights this spring to locate leks for a probability study.
Seward said conservation easements could be done after the listing decision. There will be a third comment period on the economic analysis of the listing decision that will come out in late spring.
Overall grazing has not been listed as a threat to the Gunnison sage-grouse but improper grazing has been.
Landowner Don Hart wants to create a conservation easement on his property. The property is within the occupied habitat of the Crawford population east of Highway 92 in Onion Valley. He stated it would cost $75,000 to set up an easement and would like the working group to cover administrative costs. Tanya Banulis said the National Resources Conservation Service has a program for sage-grouse easements but there is an April deadline. Because the property also has deer and elk on it, Homan mentioned the Habitat Protection Program could possibly provide a match.
Rancher Mark LeValley discussed conservation easements on private property within the core occupied habitat. It covers about 1,300 acres. Seward noted the easement could be submitted through the CPW's RFP process and/or the Elk Foundation. There is also the possibility the Habitat Protection Program could be involved because of the elk conservation values within the easement.
Bill Day stated securing the easements is extremely important when compared to the alternative of development. The working group unanimously supports the easement and considers it a high priority.
Before March 15, Mark LeValley will contact the various landowners and Seward will contact the Elk Foundation.
Joe Oglesby believes predator control should be emphasized to protect the Gunnison sage-grouse. Seward said predator control was implemented for the Miramonte population. They are waiting to see if the program was effective. Some data shows removing one predator allows another to increase. Seward wants research done on ravens in Gunnison which could then be applied to Crawford. The Miramonte research showed that coyotes were killing Gunnison sage-grouse chicks. Seward wants comments submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that predator control is an issue that requires more research.blog comments powered by Disqus