Letter to the Editor: Governor applauded on sage grouse efforts

Dear Editor:
The White River and Douglas Creek conservation districts applaud Gov. Jon Hickenlooper’s efforts to showcase Colorado landowners’ work to protect the greater sage grouse in Northwestern Colorado.
Interior Secretary Jewell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe and BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze joined the governor in touring the Board Gulch Ranch near Craig to see the good work private landowners do for multiple species while improving their bottom line in the agriculture operations.
White River Conservation District board member Gary Moyer and executive director Callie Hendrickson joined the governor and other stakeholders in a conversation with the federal officials following the tour. The stakeholders had the opportunity to ask questions and provide input to the agencies’ leaders.
The theme of the meeting was that protecting the grouse and utilizing the natural resources are not mutually exclusive. If the federal agencies will work with the state and local stakeholders, we can and will protect the greater sage grouse (GSG) while continuing to protect our local and state economies.
There were many questions and comments from the audience.
Moyer asked the agencies to consider looking into laws that create conflict for endangered species. One example is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which protects grouse predators such as the raven that eat sage grouse eggs. While the BLM is responsible for the habitat management on the federal lands the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for the management of various wildlife species that can be in conflict such as in the above example.
Another conflict with the GSG that was brought up was the feral horses.
District Executive Director and National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board Member Callie Hendrickson shared facts provided by the BLM at the April 2012 Advisory Board meeting regarding the overlapping Herd Management Areas (HMA) and the GSG habitat. Thirty-one percent of the HMAs across the west overlap GSG habitat. That is nearly 10 million acres of GSG habitat negatively impacted by excess feral horses.
While the agencies’ state their efforts are all directed at keeping the GSG from being listed, Hendrickson expressed frustration with BLM’s decision to stop removing excess horses from the range, including the overlapping GSG habitat. The numbers of horses on the range will double every four years and they will destroy GSG habitat in the heavily utilized areas of the 10 million acres, she said. In addition, horses will expand their territories in search of feed, which will have them impacting even more GSG habitat.
The White River and Douglas Creek conservation districts look forward to continuing to work with the governor and the BLM to find solutions that will protect the grouse and the local economies.
Leonard Thompson
White River Conservation District