Once again, the federales who maintain an iron grip on nearly 90 percent of the land in the state of Nevada are revealing their fundamental ignorance of history and their utter lack of concern for whether the humans who live here can survive economically.
The latest example of this — as I explain in this week’s column, which can be found online at The Ely Times — is the threat by federal bureaucrats to list Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. Should that happen, it could be devastating for the one species about which Washington doesn’t give a flaming fig — humans.
This chicken of the prairie is a ground dwelling bird with gorgeous plumage and a strutting mating dance that would make a Vegas showgirl blush with envy.
To protect its habitat, the government could greatly restrict or curtail on public and private land cattle and sheep grazing, farming, mining, oil and gas exploration, off-road vehicles, hunting and other activities, no matter how it affects the local economy and jobs.What makes this so illogical is that the sage-grouse population boom has coincided with the arrival of settlers. Before people arrived there were hardly any sage-grouse — or wildlife of any kind for that matter.
Secondly, as a letter writer in today’s Review-Journal ably points out, the problem is not mankind trampling habitat, but the lack of predator control.
Cecil Fredi, president of Hunter’s Alert!, expanded on an R-J editorial from a week ago titled “A ‘stupid bird’?”
That editorial reported, “In fact, a Nevada study that placed chicken eggs in mock sage grouse nests had to be ended early when virtually all of the eggs were eaten by ravens or coyotes — predators that have experienced population explosions as ranchers have increasingly been driven off Nevada lands.”
According to Fredi, starting in 1989, Nevada Department of Wildlife planted 1,400 chicken eggs in 200 simulated grouse nests during the 15-day period when sage hens lay their eggs. All the eggs were destroyed by predators, mostly ravens.
“Department of Wildlife officials knew this was a problem more than two decades ago and have done nothing on their own to correct this situation,” Fredi charges. “Quite the contrary, they have fought against raven control. A sportsmen’s group, Nevada Alliance 4 Wildlife, asked for and received $100,000 of Heritage Fund money for raven control. Department of Wildlife Director Ken Mayer fought against this proposal all the way. Does this sound like a director who wants to do something about this serious problem?”
In the face of the threat to the state’s rural economy, Gov. Brian Sandoval is reconstituting a Greater Sage-grouse Advisory Committee to try to devise ways to conserve the bird’s habitat. The nine-member committee — which will have representation from the general public, agriculture, ranching, energy, mining, tribes, conservation, local government and hunters and fishers — is to recommend by July 31 policies and actions for the governor to take.
The panel could save a lot of time and money by simply updating a 2004 report from a sage-grouse conservation team. That report recommended removing Pinyon and Juniper trees that were encroaching on sagebrush habitat, improving springs, closing access to certain areas during breeding and nesting seasons, controlling cheatgrass encroachment by sowing crested wheat grass. Predator control also was prominently mentioned.
It is unclear whether any of those 2004 recommendations were ever carried out.