Here are some of the high points for the recent sage grouse meeting:
1)The Record Courier put the wrong day in their article notifying the public that a meeting was going to happen.
2)Attendance was about 15 or 20 people. The room was set up for hundreds..
3)We had about 5 speakers – Nate Littrell(PNMTA) , Bill Chernock(chamber of Commerce), John Helmer (PNMTA), and a few other concerned citizens
4)The topics that were brought up were common among the speakers
a.Economic impact – every speaker stressed this. The article in the paper grossly underestimates the impact at a few million dollars. Listing of the sage grouse as endangered will cost much more than that.
b.The draft report presented in wellington does not address economic impact, although it is a required topic.
c.Meetings: there is a lot of dissatisfaction about how the meeting have been handled
i. The wellington meeting – several speakers noted that the timing, location and notification of that meeting was awful.
ii. Federal register – Ted Koch noted that notices were posted in the federal register as if that is really a good way to reach the public. Nate noted on the record that posting in the federal register satisfies the legal requirements for notification, but is an ineffective method to reach the public. We need accurate articles in the media if we are truly to be informed.
iii. Cancellation of the previous meeting – no notice and no reason was given. Again, this is unacceptable and this was noted in the record.
d.Mapping and Designation of critical habitat -There is no justification for the boundaries drawn on the maps for critical habitat. The USF&W staffer acknowldeged that the west side of the pine nuts have never had a sage grouse population although the map shows the west side and a large portion of alpine county(!?!) as being critical habitat. Nate mentioned the problems with the boundaries on the record. This topic has also been addressed through written comments. Overall, a serious look at habitat designation boundaries is needed. In general, the boundaries at this point are arbitrary.
e.The root need and motivation for this effort is political. It was repeatedly noted that this effort is based in shaky science but has solid funding from the environmental lobbies.This is truly a battle of money and time. Local citizens must stay engaged or we will lose all access to public lands.
f. Genetics – the distinction of the “Bi-State” sage grouse as a separate species is arguable. The genetic difference is minimal compared to normal sage grouse. This was entered in the record.
5)News articles: after the meeting there was another sage grouse article from kurt kildebrand at the Record courier that had significant typos (again). He left out a critical ‘not’ in reference to the impact from recreation. Mr. Hildebrand either needs someone to proofread his work or he should stop writing articles.
Final verdict:if the purpose of this meeting was to engage the public, it was a failure. There were not enough citizens there to really call the meeting ‘public’. The people in the room were all the usual groups that have been engaged already.