Growing concern about the status of sagebrush on western rangelands and declines in sage grouse numbers is leading to a formal effort to protect sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. In Montana, there has been some loss of habitat in terms of quantity and quality. In 2000, the state of Montana agreed to work cooperatively with other state and federal agencies to prepare a conservation plan for sage grouse. Montana's draft plan, which has had wide involvement across the state, is being finalized. The plan contains a diverse list of possible conservation actions. One role of the local working groups will be to identify specific actions that can be taken on private and public lands in a local area to benefit sage grouse and sagebrush habitat.
Local Working Groups (LWGs) will be established in 11 communities across the state, the first three being Dillon, Miles City, and Glasgow. The LWGs are being convened to identify and plan management actions and policies that can be pursued across the local landscape for the benefit of sage grouse and sagebrush habitat. Actions and policies will be guided but not determined by the Montana Sage Grouse Management Plan.
LWGs [ac1] will identify specific projects or other implementation activities to be carried out on the ground in their geographic area. The groups will also identify what resources are necessary for each of the projects. Finally, measures of success for each project will be determined and a monitoring strategy developed.
The LWGs are autonomous bodies. The Sage Grouse Management Plan will serve as the guiding document for the work of the LWGs, however, under that umbrella, the LWGs are free to develop and prioritize local actions. The LWGs will not have authority over any private land, any state or federal agencies, or non-governmental organizations.
The LWGs will consist of members who volunteer to serve on the group convened for their geographic area. There are no qualifications necessary to serve on a LWG beyond an interest in the conservation of sage grouse. Every effort will be made to solicit participants from a wide variety of interests to ensure that all perspectives are considered in the work of the group.
LWG members will be asked to make a commitment to attend as many of the eight meetings to be held over the next 18 months as possible.
LWG members will be expected to speak up and offer their thoughts in the meetings, communicate with others in a respectful manner, and share information about the work of the LWG with other interested individuals and groups as appropriate.
The consulting team will provide logistical support for the LWGs and the LWG meetings. This will include developing agendas, facilitating the meetings, preparing meeting summaries, preparing additional information for the LWG members and others, and follow-up actions for the LWGs as needed. The consulting team will be responsible for communications with both the LWGs and the Sage Grouse Plan Committee.
The Sage Grouse Plan Committee will provide support and oversight to the consulting team, but not direct the day-to-day work of the team. The Committee is responsible for funding the work of the consulting team in support of the LWGs.
As project ideas become more definite, additional resources can be sought out from a variety of state, federal, and private sources. At this time, there are no specific resources dedicated for project implementation other than for any projects that have already been initiated by individuals, agencies, tribes, or other organizations.
All three of the LWGs will have conducted their kick-off meetings by mid-January, 2004. The LWGs will then meet approximately every other month. By January 2005, a number of short and long-term projects will have been identified, evaluated, and prioritized by each LWG. Short-term projects not in need of outside resources may be implemented starting in the spring of 2005. More specific project planning and pursuit of resources for long-term projects will continue beyond the spring of 2005.
Information about the sage grouse planning efforts will be available through the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks' website. Information for LWG members will either be via e-mail for those individuals who have ready access to e-mail, or by U.S. mail for those who do not. Several fact sheets will be developed over the course of the project. The consulting team will establish and maintain a "library" of materials related to the project. News releases will be provided periodically to local newspapers.
Cossitt Consulting Team: Anne Cossitt, Cossitt Consulting, Park City, 633-2213, email@example.com.December 2003