Anne Cossitt welcomed the group and reviewed the agenda, which included developing local strategies for weeds and power lines/generation facilities.
Lori Nordstrom of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) provided an overview of the process for listing species under the Endangered Species Act. On April 21, 2004, FWS announced its "90 day finding" after completing an evaluation of three petitions to list the greater sage-grouse range wide as either threatened or endangered. The Service determined that the petitions and other available information provide substantial biological information indicating that further review of the status of the species is warranted.
Based on the status review, the Service will make one of three possible determinations by end of December 2004 or early 2005:
Questions/comments from participants included:
The deadline for new information on the status review is June 21. It was suggested at the Glasgow local working group meeting that the local working groups provide FWS with a status report of their work. Participants at this meeting in Dillon indicated that would be a good idea as well.
Follow-up: Anne Cossitt will draft a status update to send to FWS on behalf of the Miles City local working group.
Cossitt briefly reviewed the description of the noxious weed issues related to sage grouse habitat (which begins on page 62 of the draft plan issued March 2004). The group was then asked to review conservation actions for noxious weeds (beginning on page 63 of the draft plan). Participants were asked to work in small groups to answer four questions for each conservation action:
Participants' recommendations on conservation actions in the draft state plan for noxious weeds are as follows:
Goal 1: Conservation Action #1. Inventory and map existing noxious weed populations within and adjacent to occupied sage grouse habitat or suspected range.
Recommendation: There is already a fair amount of mapped data. Work is being done by BLM, Forest Service, weed districts, state agencies, and by some individual land owners. There should be better coordination and information sharing among all with mapped data.
Goal 2: Conservation Action # 1. Develop habitat-specific weed management plans for known sage grouse ranges, using the inventory and map information developed in the action described above.
Recommendation: These agencies (BLM, Forest Service, weed districts, etc.) already have weed plans, but they are not specific to weeds in sage brush habitat. As for mapping, there should be better coordination among agencies in planning and taking action regarding plans. If there is a need to spray, the county weed district should take the lead in coordinating spray efforts. (The group that reported on this goal indicated that they were unaware of large sagebrush areas with significant weed infestations.)
Goal 3: Conservation Action #1. Promote measures that prevent the introduction and spread of weed seeds and other reproducing plant parts.
Recommendation/Comments: Counties, railroads, and others are already proactive on this. Some agency efforts are very effective. Need more education and advertising about the issue (teach the general public, including hunters). Encourage car washes. Identify new weed types coming into the area. Educate local nursery operators about plant species that may start as ornamental but become invasive.
Goal 4: Prevent the initial establishment of weeds within or on lands surrounding sage grouse habitat. (8 conservation actions)
Goal 5: Ensure that land managers and users (general public) are educated about the threat noxious weeds pose to native plant communities and work together to find appropriate management solutions. (7 conservation actions)
Goal 6: Minimize effects of weed control treatments on non-target organisms. (3 conservation actions)
Goal 7: Provide the necessary funding mechanisms and dedicated labor to act immediately when new infestations are identified within sage grouse habitat. (3 conservation actions)
Summary of Group Recommendations: Cossitt asked the group if there were any items listed that someone did not agree with or had special concerns about. The following items were identified:
Cossitt briefly reviewed the description of power line issues related to sage grouse habitat (which begins on page 67 of the draft plan issued March 2004). The group was then asked to review conservation actions in small groups and make recommendations for actions similar to the exercise for noxious weeds.
Participants' recommendations on conservation actions in the draft state plan for power lines and generation facilities are as follows:
It was noted that golden eagles are the primary raptor species that kill sage grouse in the Dillon area. Power lines provide perches for eagles and other raptors that enhance their ability to spot and hunt sage grouse in flat sage brush country where high elevation perches would otherwise not exist.
Goal 1: Minimize the impacts of power lines on sage grouse and sagebrush habitats. Issue area: Addressing existing power lines. (5 conservation actions)
Goal 1. Issue Area: Addressing new power lines (9 conservation actions)
Goal 1. Issue Area: Existing power lines causing consistent or significant collision mortality. (3 conservation actions)
Goal 2: Minimize the impacts of fossil fuel generation facilities on sage grouse and sagebrush habitats.
Recommendations: There are no existing fossil fuel generation facilities in the area nor are any expected over the next 5-10 years. The group decided that no local actions are needed for this issue topic for the Dillon area.
Goal 3: Minimize the impacts of wind generation facilities on sage grouse and sagebrush habitats. (6 conservation actions)
Cossitt asked the group if they had any suggestions for making the upcoming meetings more productive or useful, or if they had other suggestions regarding the newsletter, or any other suggestion. There were no comments on the newsletter.
The following recommendations were made for inviting people to upcoming meetings dealing with specific topics:
|Livestock Grazing||Red Bluff Experimental Station
Jeff Mosely, MSU
Carl Wambolt, MSU
Staff of Montana's congressional delegation (Baucus, Rehberg, Burns)
|Predator||Representatives from the Dept of Livestock, USDA—Wildlife Services Division -try Graeham McDougal in Grant or his boss (in Billings or Helena)|
There were no suggestions for changing the meeting format. (Note, however that one participant came up after the meeting and requested that there be more focus on providing outreach education to K-8 public schools about sage grouse issues and conservation)
Follow-up: Cossitt Consulting will compile the work of this group meeting on conservation actions and begin to provide more detail for assuring that the conservation actions will measure up to the FWS PECE criteria (Policy for Evaluating Conservation Effectiveness). The updated version will then be routed to local working group participants for review.