Purpose of the second round of local working group meetings was to continue the local working
group effort and to provide some fundamental sage grouse information, recognizing that at the first
meeting participants had widely differing levels of understanding about sage grouse and need for
the state conservation effort.
Anne Cossitt, Cossitt Consulting, introduced herself and team members Charlie Eustace and Susan Bury. She briefly recapped information from the first meeting. (Note: for more detail on information from the first meeting, refer to the first meeting summary. Meeting summaries are available at the local working group website or by contacting Anne Cossitt-see last page of this meeting summary for website address and other contact information.) The Cossitt team is providing facilitation and other support for the local working group effort.
Meeting participants, numbering approximately 30 persons, then introduced themselves.
Anne Cossitt referred to a variety of handouts during the meeting. These included:
Team member Charlie Eustace, a wildlife biologist with more than 30 years of experience in game
bird biology in Montana, presented information about what is known about the sage grouse. He noted
that sagebrush habitat, which the grouse requires for survival and reproduction, has diminished
throughout the species' 11-state range. Over the past century, Montana's sage grouse population has
fluctuated with conditions and is now trending downward.
Eustace then reviewed the species' survival and reproductive needs over the course of the four seasons, and he presented statistics on lek numbers, numbers of birds harvested, and more. (Note: Full information from the presentation will be incorporated into a project fact sheet.)
Pat Gunderson, regional biologist for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, reviewed with is known about sage grouse numbers in the area from ground and aerial surveys, and he discussed some of the logistical challenges of counting grouse.
He noted that this year's severe winter may have driven grouse south toward the Missouri Breaks, and the ultimate impact on local populations remains to be seen. While sage grouse numbers are generally good in the area, the hunter harvest is declining, apparently because of declining hunter interest in sage grouse. Hunter harvest does not appear to be detrimental to sage grouse production.
Gunderson answered a number of questions during his presentation:
Susan Bury invited group members to offer suggestions about communications tools for the project and asked for their opinions about the existing website, a proposed newsletter, and additional fact sheets. The group members who had accessed the project website offered suggestions for improving the function of the site, including making downloads faster and explaining more clearly what's included in the Project Library. Bury asked people to think about community locations (post office, cafes, etc.) where the newsletter could be distributed, and she invited people to volunteer to help with distribution.
Cossitt presented some considerations for local working group process, including:
Cossitt said the group will move into the substance of the state plan in the upcoming meetings, including looking into possible sources for project funding. A group member suggested asking a representative from the conservation district to make a presentation on Environmental Quality Improvement Program (EQIP) funding. A group member suggested reviewing what's happening "on the ground" in sage grouse management and monitoring before starting a discussion of the conservation actions proposed in the state plan.
Cossitt then asked group members to look at maps on display in the meeting room, which showed buffered locations of identified leks. The group spent about 30 minutes in small groups, examining the maps and discussing where birds and leks are found or talking about other aspects of the project. A group member indicated that the grazing district had just located historical maps of vegetation that may be of use to the local working group.
The group set its next meeting date as April 20 or 21, depending on the availability of a suitable meeting site, and the following meeting as June 16 or 23. Anne Cossitt will send out a meeting notice as soon as possible.
Group members wanted to know more specifically what would take place at the next meeting and requested time to prepare. Cossitt will send an agenda well in advance of the meeting.
One group member asked if there are data on the impact of managed grazing versus eliminating grazing; it was noted that Brendan Moynihan's study will shed light on this question.
Daniel A. Gerike
Visit the Local Working Group website at:
Contact Anne Cossitt at firstname.lastname@example.org, (406) 633-2213, or by mail at 503 Fifth Avenue NW,
Park City, MT 59063.