Woolgrowers Highlight Sage Grouse Predation


The following is a press release from the Montana Woolgrowers Association:

Helena, Montana — On Thursday, February 1, 2012, the Montana Wool Growers Association submitted written comments to the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on that federal agency’s plans to review and revise its sage grouse habitat management plans. 

The BLM is presently conducting a public scoping process on its efforts to revise resource management plans (RMPs) that cover BLM-Managed sage-grouse habitat in a number of states, including Montana.  According to the BLM, the management revisions will be used by the agency to guide on-the-ground decisions for managing, preserving, and restoring sage grouse habitat.  The overall goal of the revisions is to keep sage grouse from being listed under the Endangered Species Act.   In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services made a determination that an ESA listing of the sage grouse is warranted, but such listing is precluded due to budget constraints and higher priority candidate species.  

In the Association’s written comments drafted by MWGA’s lawyer Jim Brown of Dillon, which are attached hereto, the Montana Wool Growers Association pointed out that most of the most important remaining habitat for sage grouse is either owned by agriculture producers or is public land that connects with private agricultural ground.  As a result, Brown wrote that the BLM would be wise to make agriculture associations cooperative partners.  In the letter, MWGA also identified multiple issues for the BLM personnel to consider prior to amending and revising its resource management plans in Montana.  Among those issues Montana’s sheep industry asked BLM to analyze as part of its environmental review, were the following:

•             The harm done to sage grouse by growing predator populations and the corresponding need for the federal government to fund and allow for greater predator control efforts;

•             The benefit provided by grazing of public lands, namely the benefit provided by domestic sheep on federal lands primarily covered by sage brush;

•             The benefit of cooperative programs between livestock producers in Montana and the BLM;

•             The need for BLM to include local governments, local grazing districts, and agriculture associations as cooperating parties in sage grouse management efforts;

•             The benefits of BLM adopting case-by-case, flexible sage grouse management plans that are tailored to meet and address the needs of local communities and local economic realities;

•             The need to allow for and to protect the rights of agriculture producers and other members of the public to have BLM manage public lands for multiple use purposes;

•             The need for BLM to adopt clear and concise definitions and bench marks so that so-called environmental groups don’t use sage grouse management as another basis for filing their endless and groundless lawsuits;

•             The necessity of BLM conducting a cost/benefit analysis on both the environmental AND economic impacts on agriculture producers and local business of its adopted management alternative; and

•             To recognize that agriculture producers, as a result of their ownership of deeded and leased lands, are the key persons for ensuring the long-term health of sage grouse populations and, as a result, BLM managers must implement strategies that work for both ranchers and sage grouse. 

When asked about the comments submitted by the Association, MWGA’s President Randy Tunby, who runs a sheep operation in Fallon County, said that, in conjunction with the Obama’s administration’s efforts to designate major portions of Eastern Montana as a national monument, “sage grouse management and BLM’s current sage grouse habit planning proposals” are the most important public policy issue for wool growers members living in the Eastern part of the State”.  Tunby further stated that “while producers in Western Montana have had to face the realities and hardships of wolf and bighorn sheep management proposals for the last several years, those of us on the East side of Montana are now facing the hard realities of sage grouse management policies and the efforts of radical environmental groups to control public lands and our grazing practices through the filing of lawsuits on the BLM’s sage grouse management policies”.

MWGA’s Vice President, Greg Wichman, attended and made public comment on the BLM’s public meeting in Lewistown in January.  At that meeting, Wichman pointed out that the BLM’s sage grouse management policies are failing to take into account the negative impact that growing predator populations are having on young sage grouse survival rates.  Wichman stated: “despite the fact that recent studies show that predation by ravens, coyotes and other predators are a major contributor to sage grouse mortality, BLM’s sage grouse management policies fail to take seriously this problem and this reality. “  “Speaking on behalf of all members of the MWGA, I am hopeful that BLM will seriously consider the impacts of predation on sage grouse as part of their environmental review process”.  “Further, I cannot communicate strongly enough how important it is for every agriculture producer in Eastern Montana and in Southwest Montana to submit written comments to the BLM on sage grouse management, and any new proposed rules will greatly affect all land uses where sage grouse are or could be present.”

The BLM has thus far conducted public hearings in January in Dillon, Lewistown and Bowman, North Dakota.  The BLM is soliciting written comment on its sage grouse management plans in both its Eastern and Western Regions.  Comments can be made via the BLM web site or by mail.  The website is as follows: http:  www.blm.gov.  Comments for the Eastern region can be emailed to sageeast@blm.gov; comments for the Western region can be emailed to sagewest@blm.gov.  Comments must be submitted by February 16, 2012.

Pictures of a real life example of the impact of predation on sage grouse are exemplified by the below photos provided by U.S.D.A Wildlife Services.

Source:  Montana Woolgrowers Association

Posted by Haylie Shipp


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x