By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup
The endangered species issue has always been an important topic, especially for the western states. What compounds the issue is when it’s made political and the politics take the place of science – it comes down to science by votes.
Recently, around 80 environmental organizations asked Congress to stop approving budget riders which they say hinders adding protections for sage grouse in the 11 western states they live in.
Most of the western states that have sage grouse feel there are enough protections for the species with the individual states’ management plans – which have been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But, with the Biden administration and the Democratic Congress, environmental organizations feel they have a chance to get these budget riders stopped, so they can get more protection added to the birds.
These organizations would really like to see the sage grouse listed and protected, but the truth is, at this time it just isn’t warranted and the science doesn’t show it is warranted. It is just a way to gain control of public lands and some control of private lands. Sage grouse numbers cycle up and down, and there are a lot of indicators out there to keep them from falling off the cliff.
Reading through news articles in the Oil City News, I see having a hunting season for sage grouse has come up as an issue again. While the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) supports hunting, there are a number of people out there who don’t.
I think there are some good arguments for both sides, but the science is behind the WGFD and the emotional side is behind no hunting. Sage grouse numbers are lower in some areas now, so people are raising concerns.
We’ve all heard arguments from the pro-hunting side saying, “We’ll never get the hunters back if we stop hunting and the numbers killed don’t affect the total number of sage grouse.”
From a landowner’s point of view, I’m not for hunting sage grouse and don’t allow it on my private lands – this is my right. The reason behind this decision is I woke up one morning and realized my land was in a sage grouse core area, and the decision was made without much input from me.
I realize I could have been more involved, but that’s behind us now. While it did stop some energy development, I choose not to fight it and looked for opportunities from the decision, as the decision was made and there wasn’t much I could do about it. I also realized Wyoming has done a great job with their sage grouse management plan and have been looked on as the leader in the western states for management of the bird.
I became involved in a Sage Grouse Initiative Program and later enrolled in a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances. This program protects me if the sage grouse is listed.
I see this past week, the Department of the Interior said they are moving to reopen, and potentially revise, sweeping Greater sage grouse conservation plans covering millions of acres across the West.
If the bird is listed or more regulations forced on us, I’m the guy who is going to take the hit as a landowner. To me, the loss of any sage grouse is bad, whether it is caused by hunting, weather or predators. I don’t like to roll the dice on the future of my ranch.