by Gary Hompland, Regional Conservation Officer
Question: "I'm new to the area and have heard and read a lot of discussion in the local print and television media about sage-grouse. Why is everyone so focused on sage-grouse?"
Answer: Sage-grouse are a unique species of prairie grouse native to Idaho. Their populations have declined markedly over the last 50 years.
Many pioneer families grew up eating sage-grouse. To many, sage-grouse are a symbol of our heritage similar to the elk, bald eagle or salmon. Historical numbers of sage-grouse populations in Idaho are not well documented.
Overall, populations of this magnificent bird have declined throughout the West due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Petitions to list the species, or individual populations, as either threatened or endangered have been presented to the US Fish and Wildlife Service eight times since 1999.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (Department) has released a draft version of the new statewide sage-grouse conservation plan for public review. An electronic version of the plan is available on the Department's website at: www.fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/hunt/grouse/conserve_plan/.
The goal of the plan is to, "Maintain, improve, and where possible, increase sage-grouse populations and habitats in Idaho, while conserving the predictability and long-term sustainability of a variety of other land uses."
A secondary goal of the plan is the establishment of new Local Working Groups (LWGs) in all sage-grouse planning areas where they do not currently exist. A new working group for much of Cassia County (the South Magic Valley LWG) will be in place by the end of the year.
In 1997, the Fish and Game Commission approved the first statewide sage-grouse management plan. This effectively divided the state into management areas and called for the formation of these working groups.
The sage-grouse local working group (LWG) is the heart of this long-range conservation strategy. The state plan identifies and prioritizes threats to the species at the broad-scale, statewide level. Local working groups will address issues and concerns, prioritize local threats, and identify appropriate conservation measures on a local scale.
Ultimately there will be 13 local working groups in the state. Regional Department personnel will be involved with six LWGs in the Magic Valley. The Shoshone Basin LWG is the oldest one in Idaho, and perhaps the West.
Contributed by Michael Todd, Wildlife Habitat Biologist
If you have any further questions you may call the Magic Valley Regional Office of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at (208)324-4350 or e-mail us at the Fish and Game web site at http://fishandgame.Idaho.gov.