Posts Tagged ‘sage grouse’

Sodsaver Provision a Win for Sage Grouse

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

GSG  Palmer a

Eastern Montana rancher Bill Milton is pleased to see a new sodsaver provision in the Farm Bill of 2014. He runs a grass-fed cattle operation near Roundup, that’s on the edge of important habitat for sage grouse. The provision will reduce the incentive to convert native sagebrush and grasslands to tilled crops, which do not support sage grouse or livestock grazing.

“We just don’t want to break up any more grass,” Milton said. “What remains of our native grasslands is a high priority to keep right side up.”

“Over the past few years, high crop prices and high land values have pushed crop production onto every available acre, including some of our last, best, prairie habitat,” said Dave Nomsen, vice president of governmental affairs for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, strong partners of the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI).

Converting sagebrush-steppe into cropland —or sodbusting–is the biggest threat to sage grouse habitat in Montana and the Dakotas. Photo in Montana.

Converting sagebrush-steppe into cropland —or sodbusting–is the biggest threat to sage grouse habitat in Montana and the Dakotas. 

“This habitat is essential for upland birds and waterfowl,” Nomsen said. “Fortunately, the farm bill passed does include a strong sodsaver policy, and while the provision is limited to six states, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, it represents a compromise that will help save native prairie in the states where it is most threatened.”

Sodsaver reduces the federal crop insurance subsidy available to landowners by 50 percent for four years on any lands they convert from native prairie to cropland. Under the new Farm Bill, landowners are still allowed to convert prairie, but the profitability depends on free-market economics, not agricultural subsidy.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identified sodbusting as the top threat to sage grouse in Montana and the Dakotas. Addressing this threat will be a major factor in the Service’s 2015 decision on the need to list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.

The Service relies on the Conservation Objectives Team (COT) report to inform its decision on what has changed for the sage grouse since 2010, when the species was found warranted for listing, but precluded by other higher priority wildlife in trouble.

The COT report specifically recommends: “Revise Farm Bill policies and commodity programs that facilitate ongoing conversion of native habitats to marginal croplands (e.d. through the addition of a ‘Sodsaver’ provision), to support conservation of remaining sagebrush-steppe habitats.”

This regulatory mechanism goes has gone into effect with the President’s signature. Montana harbors almost 20 percent of the world’s remaining sage grouse, second only to Wyoming.  The state also ranks first in privately owned sagebrush habitats out of 11 western states, with 64 percent of the habitat on private lands, like Milton’s ranch and many others in eastern Montana.

Milton said his operation benefits from an easement through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Grassland Reserve Program that ensures the native grasslands remain as grasslands.

“We are hoping that with good conservation practices working with NRCS and good grazing practices the species habitat can be conserved without an endangered species listing,” he said.

Milton has seen firsthand the loss of thousands of acres of native grasslands and shrublands converted to croplands over the past 30 years in both Musselshell County where he lives, and to the north in Petroleum County. He points out that the best farmland was tilled up long ago and what remains tends to be marginal and unsustainable for growing crops. He doesn’t think it’s right to subsidize practices that encourage plowing up what’s left of the prairie so essential to ranching and for sage grouse.

Science Informs Solutions

SGImap

Sage grouse breeding lek locations in black. Green areas converted to croplands. Research from Joe Smith, graduate student in Wildlife Biology, University of Montana

Dave Naugle, SGI science advisor and professor at University of Montana, has data in hand that demonstrates how plowing lands reduces sage grouse numbers. He works closely with the University of Montana and The Nature Conservancy to investigate the sodbusting risk and then develop strategies to prioritize conservation efforts.

A map of eastern Montana and the Dakotas shows sage grouse lek (breeding) locations falling on native prairie with none on the green-colored lands converted to wheat and other crops.

“Sage grouse hate fragmentation of their habitat,” Naugle said. “They need vast sagebrush-steppe to survive.”

To help keep it that way, he and his colleagues have used overlays of maps to identify the sage grouse strongholds at highest risk of conversion to croplands. They can then efficiently pinpoint where to help ranchers who wish to voluntarily enroll in rotational grazing and conservation easement projects.

“The sodsaver is a game-changer for halting conversion of prairie to cropland,” Naugle said. “The pendulum has now swung in favor of ranching and conservation.”

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Prairie Grouse Hunting Outlook

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

 PrairieGrouseHuntingOutlook

Most states west of the Mississippi River have upland seasons for prairie grouse – prairie chickens, sage grouse and/or sharp-tailed grouse – opening in September. These early upland seasons are ideal for dog work and sharpening your wingshooting skills. Don’t expect a lot of competition for spots, as many prairie grouse hunting opportunities are notoriously underutilized by upland hunters. This outlook focuses on the states with the most widespread populations:

Kansas

Kansas has an early prairie chicken season (Northwest and East units, Sept. 15 – Oct. 15, 2013) that gives bird hunters a unique opportunity to walk up greater prairie chickens and work bird dogs long before pheasant and quail seasons open. The early season was established to provide additional hunting opportunity for this tallgrass prairie icon and let hunters enjoy a true one-of-a-kind grassland hunt. The traditional prairie chicken season is Nov. 16-Jan. 31, 2014 in the East and Northwest units, and Nov. 16-Dec. 31 in the Southwest Unit, and during this season, most prairie chickens are taken by pass shooting. While prairie chickens rarely flush within shotgun range of walking hunters during the regular season, the early season, flocks of young birds are more likely to hold for walking hunters and dogs. All prairie chicken hunters must have a $2.50 prairie chicken permit in addition to a hunting license. Permits may be purchased wherever licenses are sold and online. Information provided by hunters at the time of purchase will help biologists estimate prairie chicken harvest and hunting pressure. A more substantial prairie grouse population update is expected to be released by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism later this month.

Montana

Even Montana, one of the last great places for mixed bag upland hunting, is seeing land changes affecting its upland bird populations. Large acreages of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands are being returned to crop production in many places, habitat loss which is expected to have a long-term impact to prairie grouse populations if habitat isn’t restored. The weather side hasn’t been much kinder, as a drought last year was followed up by substantial spring flooding events in early June. Consequently, sharp-tailed grouse numbers are expected to be average to below average across the eastern region of the state. Sage grouse were really hurt by last year’s extreme drought conditions, which led to low brood survival. Hunters can expect sage grouse numbers to be average to well below average across Montana’s entire sage grouse range, though excellent brood rearing conditions this summer may mitigate those declines to some extent. Both grouse seasons in Montana opened Sept. 1, with the sage grouse season closing Nov. 1, 2013 and the sharp-tailed grouse season closing Jan. 1, 2014.

Nebraska

Nebraska’s July Rural Mail Carrier Survey indicated regional and statewide declines in prairie grouse (sharp-tailed grouse & greater prairie chicken) abundance compared to 2012. Regional declines were greatest in the Northeast and Central regions. The Sandhills, west of Highway 81 in the western grouse zone, continues to be the core of the prairie grouses range in Nebraska, and will offer the best opportunities for harvest this year. East of Highway 81, in the eastern grouse zone (where one of 400 special, free permits is required) brood observations, like those of pheasants and bobwhites, have been few. Further, habitat loss continues to accelerate in the eastern zone. As for southwest Nebraska, Johnson and western Pawnee Counties should offer the best chances this year. Nebraska’s prairie grouse season runs Sept. 1, 2013 through Jan. 31, 2014.

North Dakota

Sharp-tailed grouse, as well as Hungarian partridge populations, are down significantly from last year in North Dakota. The July and August roadside counts suggested suggest sharp-tailed grouse numbers are down 51 percent statewide from last year, with the number of broods observed down 50 percent, while the statewide Hungarian partridge population is down 34 percent from last year, and the number of broods observed is down 31 percent. Aaron Robinson, upland game biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Dickinson, said even though spring survey numbers indicated a population comparable to last year, the telling factor is always late-summer counts. “Fall hunting season success is directly correlated to the current year’s reproductive success – if there is a good hatch then logically there will be more birds on the landscape come fall hunting season,” Robinson said.  The season for sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge in North Dakota runs Sept. 14, 2013 through Jan. 5, 2014.

South Dakota

Prairie grouse production – sharptails and greater prairie chickens – was the worst on record in 2012, likely in response to record drought conditions in central and western South Dakota. “The cold and wet spring was not ideal for prairie grouse production in 2013, but we are optimistic that production will be higher than 2012,” says Travis Runia, a senior upland game biologist with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department. Runia noted that continued grassland habitat loss has eroded the prairie grouse distribution along their eastern range, but when hunters do find grasslands, they should find them with more cover than last year, which should help hunting success. The Fort Pierre National Grasslands, with 100,000-plus acres of well-managed grasslands, still represents the premier destination for prairie grouse hunters in South Dakota. South Dakota’s prairie grouse season runs Sept. 21, 2013 through Jan. 5, 2014.

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Dog of the Day: Show Dog Shows it in the Field

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

DODsagegrouse

Dr. Chris Wilson from Logan, Utah, and his setter, “Ethan,” hunted up these sage grouse along the Continental Divide in Wyoming.  In addition to having American Kennel Club titles in obedience, rally and hunting, Ethan is also a show champion. I guess nobody told him that ‘show dogs can’t hunt’!”

Have your own bird dog photo you’d like to share? Email it to Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor, at ahauck@pheasantsforever.org.

Prairie Grouse Primer

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Most states west of the Mississippi have upland seasons for prairie grouse – prairie chickens, sage grouse and sharp-tailed grouse – opening in September. These early upland seasons are ideal for dog work and sharpening your wingshooting skills. Don’t expect a lot of competition for spots, as many prairie grouse hunting opportunities are notoriously underutilized by upland hunters.

As the nation’s leading upland conservation organization, Pheasants Forever’s wildlife habitat mission is also being utilized to help prairie grouse. Nationally, Pheasants Forever is a leader on the Sage Grouse Initiative, and Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologists are working with landowners in the southern plains as part of the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative. Additionally, Pheasants Forever chapter habitat projects where pheasant and grouse ranges overlap – Canada, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming as examples – are also benefitting prairie grouse.

 

Colorado

Outlook:  Colorado’s rich upland offering includes prairie chickens, sage grouse and sharp-tailed grouse, one of just a couple states in which all three exist in huntable populations. The largest populations of sage grouse open to hunting are found in North Park (Jackson County), Grand County, and Moffat County. Greater prairie chickens are found in the sandhills of northern and central Yuma County, extreme eastern Washington County and extreme southern Phillips County. Sharptails are doing well thanks to the presence of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands in their range.

Sage grouse

  • Multiple seasons, consult regulations for details

Prairie chicken

  • Season: Oct. 1 through Jan. 6 (select units only, consult regulations for details)
  • Daily Bag Limit: 2
  • Annual Bag and Possession Limit: 2

Sharp-tailed grouse

  • Season: Sept. 1 through Sept. 16 (select units only, consult regulations for details)
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 2 / 4


Idaho

Outlook:  Idaho is home to Columbian sharp-tailed grouse and sage grouse, and reports from the field suggest this fall will be promising, according to Jeff Knetter, Upland Game Biologist with the Idaho Fish and Game Department. Counts of male sage grouse on lek routes were down 13 percent this spring, but nesting conditions were favorable for production. For sharptails, eastern Idaho is the best area, namely the southeast and Upper Snake regions. “There is abundant public land (state and federal) and many Access Yes! properties that provide access for hunting to private land,” Knetter says of these regions. For sage grouse, the best areas to hunt would be the southwest, Upper Snake and Salmon regions. “Most sage grouse hunting opportunities can be found on abundant public land, primarily BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands in Idaho,” Knetter says. On the habitat front, the Conservation Reserve Program-State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) practice is being implemented in both the Southeast and Upper Snake regions to improve or enhance sharptail habitat, while the Sage Grouse Initiative is being implemented across the range of sage grouse in Idaho. Last year, Utah hunters harvested 2,900 sharptails and 2,100 sage grouse.

Sage grouse & Sharp-tailed grouse

  • Season: Sharp-tailed grouse: Oct. 1 through Oct. 31; Sage grouse: Sept. 15 through Sept. 21
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit:  2 sharptails, 1 sage grouse / 4 sharptails, 2 sage grouse

 

Kansas

Outlook:  Populations of greater and lesser prairie chickens remain strong in west central and northwest Kansas, though down slightly from last year, reports Dave Dahlgren, Small Game Specialist with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Greater prairie chicken populations have increased in northwest Kansas in recent years, so the state has expanded its early season into this area that includes some of the highest densities. The extreme drought of the past two years has especially hurt southwest Kansas, including lesser prairie chicken areas that have seen extreme declines in recent years. Dahlgren adds that the Flint Hills did not receive prescribed management burning this year due to drought, which left more nesting cover on the landscape and likely resulted in higher production of birds in that area. Last year, 6,200 greater prairie chickens and 400 lesser prairie chickens were harvested by Kansas hunters. New for 2012, Kansas prairie chicken hunters are required to purchase a $2.50 prairie chicken permit which will allow the state to monitor harvest with much more precision.

Prairie chicken

Early Season (Northwest and East units)

  • Sept. 15 through Oct. 15
  • Daily Bag Limit: 2, single species or in combination

Regular Season (Northwest and East units)

  • Nov. 17 through Jan. 31, 2013
  • Daily Bag Limit: 2, single species or in combination

Southwest Season

  • Nov. 17 through Dec. 31
  • Daily Bag Limit: 1

 

Michigan

Outlook: Michigan is home to the eastern-most huntable population of sharp-tailed grouse in the U.S. Last year marked the state’s first sharp-tailed grouse season in a dozen years, as the grouse population was greater than biologists realized. The hunt is open in parts of two counties in the eastern Upper Peninsula. Most of the sharp-tailed grouse habitat in the eastern Upper Peninsula is on private land, so permission will be needed from landowners. A free sharp-tailed grouse stamp is also required to hunt Michigan sharptails.

Sharp-tailed grouse:

  • Season: Oct. 10 through Oct. 31
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 2 / 4 (limit 6 per season)

 

Minnesota

Outlook:  Minnesota’s sharp-tailed grouse count declined by 22 percent this spring, but the statewide index of sharptails per dancing ground was similar to the long-term average observed since 1980. Sharp-tailed grouse are more abundant in northwest Minnesota, but can also be found in east-central Minnesota. Minnesota typically has about 5,000 to 10,000 upland hunters who pursue sharptails annually, with a yearly harvest of up to 22,000 birds. Pheasants Forever and the Minnesota Sharp-tailed Grouse Society recently, with the help of a grant recommended by Minnesota’s Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, acquired a 1,285-acre parcel in Kanabec County. The property, now permanently protected habitat for wildlife, including sharp-tailed grouse, has been turned over to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to be open as a state Wildlife Management Area.

Sharp-tailed grouse

  • Season: Sept. 15 through Nov. 30
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit:  3 / 6

Prairie chicken

  • Season: Oct. 20-24*
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit:  2 / 2

*The application deadline for Minnesota’s limited-draw fall prairie chicken hunt was Aug. 17. Surplus tags go on sale Sept. 24th at noon.

 

Montana

Outlook:  Montana boasts one of the strongest remaining sage grouse populations in the country, as well as the most liberal sharp-tailed grouse season – a four-bird daily bag limit – making it a premier stop for prairie grouse hunters. Across Montana’s sage grouse range, numbers are expected to be back at average or even slightly above average except for south central Montana. Sage grouse are found in Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Regions 3, 5, 6 and 7. As for sharptails, an above average season is expected in Region 4, which stretches from Fergus and Petroleum Counties in the central part of the state northeast to the Rocky Mountain Front. Region 6, which has many times been the top sharptail producing area of Montana, should have numbers improved over last season, and possibly even above average the further east you travel. Sharptail numbers are also stable in southeast Montana.

Sage grouse

  • Sept. 1 through Nov. 1
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 2 / 4

Sharp-tailed grouse

  • Season: Sept.1- Jan. 1, 2013
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 4 / 16

 

Nebraska

Outlook:  Prairie grouse population counts from Nebraska’s summer surveys were higher compared to 2011, with a statewide increase of 46 percent, and Jeff Lusk, Upland Game Program Manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, expects a good season of sharp-tailed grouse and greater prairie chicken hunting in the state. “The Nebraska Sandhills continues to be the premier area in the state for both sharptails and prairie chickens,” Lusk says of his state’s core grouse range. Lusk adds that abundant prairie chicken populations exist in southwest and south-central Nebraska, but hunting activity in these areas has typically been low. East of Highway 81, the continued loss of grassland habitat, particularly in the southeast prairie chicken range, is impacting the population, though Lusk says a fair amount of publically accessible Open Field & Waters program acres in southwest Johnson and western Pawnee Counties should provide good prairie chicken hunting. In 2011, an estimated 6,082 hunters harvested 17,356 prairie grouse.

Sharp-tailed grouse & Prairie chicken

  • Season: Oct. 27 through Jan. 31, 2013*
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: West zone, 3 grouse in aggregate; East zone, permit allows the take of 3 prairie chickens during the grouse season /  West zone, 12 grouse (combined); East zone, permit allows harvest of only 3 prairie chickens during the grouse season. 

*A special, free permit is required for the east grouse zone, east of State Highway 81. Permits can be obtained from the Nebraska Game & Parks Lincoln Office. 

 

Nevada

Outlook:  Nevada is another sage grouse option, where as recently as 2009-2010, nearly 9,000 sagehens were harvested. Predominately a resident-only hunt, nonresidents have, in recent years, been able to apply for two separate seasons with 75 permits awarded at the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge.

Sage grouse

  • Multiple seasons, consult regulations for details*

*The deadline for nonresidents was Aug. 3. Mark your calendars for next season.

 

North Dakota

Outlook:  North Dakota hunters should expect to see a slight increase in sharp-tailed grouse numbers this hunting season, based on spring survey numbers. Aaron Robinson, Prairie Grouse Biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said the spring sharptail breeding population was up from last year, and that the mild winter and spring allowed for good nesting success. The widespread drought may have impacted chick survival, but Robinson says the bigger long-term problem is the continued loss of native prairie and acreage previously enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, both of which are negatively affecting the sharp-tailed grouse population. Found statewide, look for birds wherever native prairie is mixed with shrubland and small grain crops. Hay fields and pasture lands can also provide sharptail action. North Dakota also has a small sage grouse population, but that season is closed.

Sharp-tailed grouse

  • Season: Sept. 8 through Jan. 6, 2013
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 3 / 12

 

Oregon

Outlook:  Oregon’s best sage grouse hunting areas can be found in the southeast, and since much of eastern Oregon is owned by state and federal agencies, it offers the potential for a public do-it-yourself hunt. Popular units in this controlled hunt included the Whitehorse, Beatys Butte, Warner, Beulah and Malheur River.

Sage grouse

  • Season: Sept. 8 through Sept. 16*
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 2 / 2 (season limit)

*The application deadline for Oregon’s controlled sage grouse hunt was Aug. 27. Mark your calendars for next season.

 

South Dakota

Outlook:  South Dakota will again be a top prairie grouse destination, as hunter success is expected to be comparable to last season in which wingshooters bagged 48,000 sharptails and greater prairie chickens combined. Drought hit South Dakota as early as last fall, says Travis Runia, Senior Upland Game Biologist with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, which could have reduced available nesting cover and which may make getting close to birds more difficult. Runia points out the Fort Pierre National Grasslands will again represent a premier destination for prairie grouse hunters in South Dakota. “The 100,000 acres of well-managed grasslands boast an abundance of both sharp-tailed grouse and greater prairie chickens.” Runia says, “The Grand River and Buffalo Gap National Grasslands are also notable destinations.” But hunters can stay east of the Missouri River and still find birds. “The Missouri river breaks on either side of the river hold good numbers of sharp-tailed grouse,” Runia says, “Grassland dominated landscapes within the first tier of counties east of the river are often over looked by grouse hunters but have tremendous opportunities for quality hunting.” South Dakota also offers a two-day, public land-only sage grouse hunt. Last year, 11 birds were harvested in what’s looked at as a trophy bird opportunity for avid grouse hunters. Sage grouse abundance is similar to last year.

Sharp-tailed grouse & Prairie chicken

  • Season: Sept. 15 through Jan. 6, 2013
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 3 (combined) / 15 (combined)

Sage grouse

  • Season: Sept. 26 and 27
  • Limit 1 per season

 

Utah

Outlook:  Greater sage grouse populations are very low right now in Utah, while sharp-tailed grouse numbers have been stable the past three years, reports Jason Robinson, Upland Game Program Coordinator with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Because Utah has a limited draw only for designated hunting areas, the hunter success rate is very high; in fact, 600 hunters averaged a bird each in 2011 for each species. For those who draw a permit, Utah’s Walk in Access program does allow for hunting opportunities for these species.

Sage grouse & Sharp-tailed grouse

  • Season: Sept. 29 through Oct. 21*
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit:  2 / 2 birds total for the entire season, must have a permit for each species

*Limited entry, draw only for designated areas. You already have to have a permit to hunt in 2012. The application deadline was July 3, 2012. Mark your calendars for next season.

 

Wisconsin

Outlook: Wisconsin is also home to small but relatively stable sharp-tail grouse population, the majority of which are found in the early successional Pine Barrens and savannas in the northwestern portion of the state. Some of the larger state-owned areas that focus on sharp-tailed grouse management include the Crex Meadows and Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Areas in Burnett County.

Sharp-tailed grouse*:

  • Season: Oct. 20 through Nov. 11
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit:  Determined by permits

*The application deadline for Wisconsin’s sharp-tailed grouse hunt was Aug. 1. Mark your calendars for next season.

 

Wyoming

Outlook:  Wyoming is also a premiere sage grouse hunting destination, as last year nearly 4,500 hunters pursued the big birds, harvesting just more than 10,000. A 15-day season is open in Big Horn, Fremont, Hot Springs, Park, Sweetwater, Uinta, Washakie and portions of Albany, Carbon, Lincoln, Sublette, Natrona Counties, with publically accessible land available. Another 1,300 hunters pursued sharp-tailed grouse last season, with 3,315 finding game vests.

Sage grouse

  • Opens Sept. 15 (see regulations for closing dates in different hunt areas)

Sharp-tailed grouse:

  • Season: Sept. 1- through Dec. 31
  • Daily Bag / Possession Limit: 3 / 9


Pheasants Forever intern Brittney Traxinger contributed to this Prairie Grouse season forecast.

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Western energy development and wildlife—why upland hunters should care

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Energy development in the Pinedale area of southwestern Wyoming is unnecessarily destroying populations of mule deer and sage grouse – a fact TRCP, in partnership with PF, is trying to stop. (photo by Cameron Davidson)

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, of which Pheasants Forever is a partner, held a press conference today (Dec. 1) on its appeal of its lawsuit to make the Department of the Interior live up to its promise to better manage energy development and resulting wildlife impacts in the Pinedale area of southwestern Wyoming.

Specifically, TRCP says a federal report (<http://www.wy.blm.gov/jio-papo/papo/reports/2010annualreport_muledeer.pdf>) documents declines of 60 percent in the area’s mule deer population; sage grouse, already a species of concern, are also being seriously impacted.

In fact, Dr. Rollin Sparrowe, TRCP board member, former federal biologist and past leader of the Pinedale Anticline Working Group Wildlife Task Group, said “every sage grouse (mating) lek has been negatively affected where this oil and gas development is occurring…If this continues, sage grouse will go to extinction.”

I, like many of you, have hunted mulies, sage grouse and antelope in Wyoming, some in the Pinedale area. Many other pheasant and quail hunters have also hunted big game in other western states where similar irresponsible energy development is underway or soon will be.

If TRCP’s legal appeal fails, the group says it will go to Congress to save western game from reckless energy development. If that happens, TRCP will need the help of upland hunters to get a good law passed.

Is TRCP against energy development? No. “We can have development, wildlife and hunting if energy development is done right. But now, mule deer are being decimated and more development is being planned, “ said Whit Fosburgh, TRCP president and CEO. “If the Pinedale energy development model is allowed to stand, what will happen to wildlife on the other 40 million acres in the west that is open for energy development?”

Fosburgh added that Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages most of the energy leases, was under tremendous pressure to get the Pinedale development going when it was first authorized in 2000. “The BLM had to move quickly and with very limited biological staff to advocate for wildlife.”

***

Upland hunters, there is a crisis in the west’s public lands that is destroying our wildlife and hunting heritage. Stay tuned on TRCP’s appeal. If that fails, TRCP will need your calls and letters to your Congressional representatives to right this serious wrong.

Chickens, Sharpies and Rattlesnakes

Monday, October 4th, 2010

The cover of the new North American Grouse Partnership magazine as designed by Pheasants Forever's Rosalie Wolff

Pheasants Forever’s marketing department will send the North American Grouse Partnership’s first publication in three years to the printer later this week.  It’s all part of Pheasants Forever’s role as a member of the Prairie Grouse Partners.  We are providing public relations and marketing assistance to support our common conservation interest: restoring prairie habitat.  The NAGP will pay all the printing and mailing bills, while Pheasants Forever has provided the elbow grease to produce this publication.  Most of that elbow grease has come from Rosalie Wolff, Pheasants Forever’s Graphic Artist; who has designed a fantastic looking publication.

If you are interested in prairie chickens, sharp-tailed grouse, or sage grouse, there is still time for you to add your name to the North American Grouse Partnership’s roster of members to receive this new publication.  In fact, through this special link you’ll receive the special discounted price for Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever members. 

 
 
 
 
 

A Ft. Pierre National Grassland greater prairie chicken (left) and sharp-tailed grouse (right)

Bob’s Bird Hunting Report: Ft. Pierre National Grasslands, South Dakota

Last week, I enjoyed a fantastic couple of days hunting the wide open spaces of SoDak’s Fort Pierre Grasslands.  While I have had two other opportunities to bag my first prairie chicken, this was my first dedicated trip focused on the bird.  Long story short, a September trip to Fort Pierre will be an annual pilgrimage for this hunter.  In three days of hunting, I saw hundreds of chickens, sharpies and pheasants.  It was a bird hunter’s smorgasbord.  I did indeed bag my first greater prairie chicken (five of them actually) and added three sharpies as well.  One word of caution about these western grasslands: be prepared for bird dog encounters with rattlesnakes, porcupines, skunks, and coyotes.