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Miles City Meeting I

Meeting Summary
Miles City Sage Grouse Local Working Group
January 8, 2004

Welcome/Introduction

Anne Cossitt, Cossitt Consulting, introduced herself and team member, Barb Beck. The team of Cossitt, Beck, and Susan Bury has been hired by the Sage Grouse Working Group to convene and assist local working groups in three locations, Dillon, Miles City, and Glasgow. The purpose of the local working groups is to discuss and determine what actions can be taken to benefit sage grouse and sagebrush habitat. The meeting participants then introduced themselves.

Background Information

Barb Beck explained that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has received a number of petitions asking them to list the Sage Grouse as either a threatened or endangered species. She explained the listing process and the fact that a 90-day finding on whether there is enough information in the petition to consider listing is due out from the FWS in January. Beck went on to explain that because of habitat losses and declines in sage grouse populations, 11 western states, the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service had entered into an agreement to prepare plans for each state. She familiarized the group with the contents of the Management Plan and Conservation Strategies for Sage Grouse in Montana.

Copies of the local working group charter were passed out. Cossitt went over the charter explaining the goals of the groups, timeframes, products, roles, and expectations. She asked the participants to consider making a commitment to attend as many meetings as possible so that the group is as productive as possible.

Discussion

The meeting was opened up to comments and participants were asked to express concerns and observations. The following comments were offered:

  • Lets not focus on exact # of acres of sagebrush habitat in Montana the number is not definite
  • Many of the conservation actions are already being done. This is the meat of it. Landowners need to be comfortable with conservation actions.
  • What is the ultimate goal? What is our problem, why are we doing this?
  • We dont even know exactly what we have out there (in terms of sage grouse numbers) or what is impacting them
  • Where are we in the whole process of listing and will our efforts make a difference
  • Montana has the longest hunting season (of the states with sage grouse)
  • We need more baseline data. This will help respond to questions and challenges. One idea is to document observations. There may be lots of small things we can do.
  • Hard to know what to do without the state plan being done
  • How will our recommendations be considered and/or implemented by agencies?
  • Sagebrush is not exactly what I want to see on my ranch. Want to know what kind and size of habitat the sage grouse need. Ranchers need to understand what, how, and when the grouse need and what ranchers can do.
  • Resource like "Farm and Ranch Guide to Game Bird Management" would be useful
  • Working group can be a place to bring current information on research
  • Information needs to be made available to the public on the status of sage grouse and possible impacts. Need to get more people involved.
  • Most people involved in agriculture keep things in balance. Weve not kept things in balance with fish and game. Need to base our efforts on science.
  • We have the same amount of habitat, but weve lost birds. Bird numbers declined when red fox numbers were high. Theres enough habitat now, birds need some protection (from predators) There are lots of falcons now where there werent before
  • Colorado saw big drop off in population without habitat loss, predator numbers were high. Reclaimed lands have provided some great habitat.

Wrap-up

Anne thanked all of those who attended the meeting recognizing how valuable their time is. She informed the participants that the meeting summary from this and future meetings would be e-mailed to those who have provided e-mail addresses and also posted on the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website. The group selected Monday, February 23, 2004, at 3 p.m. for their next meeting. A news release will be put out closer to the date to remind people. Dates and locations of meetings will also be posted on the FWP website.

Participants

JoLynn Anderson
Rick Atkinson
Jay Bodner
Mary Buchholz
Scott Cassel
Tom Courtney
Chad Cyrus
Tom C Davis
Ron Devlin
Dawn Doran
John Ensign
Rick Fighter
Clark Fritz
Bob Green
Don Griffin
Keith Hall
Jeff Hardin
Peter Husby
Ward Jackson
John Krutzfeldt
Peter Martin
David McIlny
Larry Murphy
Helen Pilster
Larry Pilster
Bill Pruitt
Larry Rau
Curtis Rides Horse
Brad Sauer
Watty Taylor
Dale Tribby
Kent Undlin
Carol Watts
Kent Williams
Tom Zook