Written by The Herald-News
When Governor Steve Bullock appointed people to the Greater Sage-Grouse Habitat Conservation Advisory Council, Montana Farm Bureau Federation wanted to be involved.
The purpose of the council was to gather information, furnish advice, and provide to the governor recommendations on policies and actions for a state-wide strategy to preclude the need to list the Greater Sage-Grouse under the Endangered Species Act.
MFBF central regional manager Chelcie Cremer attended the meetings July 30-31 in Helena, and explained that certain areas of the state have especially large areas for sage grouse habitat.
“The areas they’re mostly concentrating on for habitat conservation is the Big Hole in southwestern Montana, as well as some land in central and eastern Montana,” noted Cremer. “At the meeting in Helena, the council talked about how grazing management strategies and conservation go together well. There have been studies that show managed grazing conserves prime sage grouse habitat.”
Cremer explained that Wyoming’s comprehensive Sage Grouse Habitat Management Plan was being carefully reviewed and discussed by the advisory council. “They’re not going to use it verbatim, but plan to take some pieces of it to use as a template,” Cremer said. “Wyoming has developed some good practices of which Farm Bureau supports.”
Council members noted two concerns regarding the loss of sage grouse habitat; the conversion of rangeland to farmland and the removal of sage brush from the range. Conversion of rangeland to cropland is not occurring at the rate it once did, and the council seemed to recognize that. They want to explore more opportunities for private land owners to enroll in incentive programs promoting the conservation of sage grouse habitat,” she noted.
The advisory council, which includes representatives from farming and ranching, conservation and sportsmen, energy, mining and power transmission, tribal government, local government and the legislature, plans to have a draft management plan released by early October when public comment will be solicited. The final recommendations are due in early January.