Nevada Wildlife Director Gone — Again

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKen Mayer, director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife, resigned “abruptly” last week, at the governor’s request. It was the second time he has left the position as the state’s wildlife director in the last three years. In 2010 he was dismissed by a departing governor, only to be reinstated by the incoming governor, Brian Sandoval, the same governor who asked for his resignation this time.

It’s clear that the true conflict is with the Nevada Wildlife Commission. An Associated Press article in the Reno Gazette-Journal suggests that the commission supports outdated wildlife management techniques, such as using predator control to boost game populations.

Is it a simple case of science versus politics, or are there other issues? Unless someone in the Nevada media chooses to dig in to the matter, it’s unlikely that we’ll know the full story.

Read the Reno Gazette-Journal article here.

There’s another article in the Reno Gazette-Journal that talks about the implications of Mayer’s departure for the conservation of sage grouse, but it is a little confusing because at first, it talks about listing the sage grouse as a federally endangered species as a goal harmed by Mayer’s departure, without mentioning — until the second page of the article — that the states have been working hard to enact conservation methods to keep sage grouse off the federal endangered species list. Whew. You can read that second Reno Gazette-Journal article here.

Photo: Ken Mayer, courtesy Nevada Dept. of Wildlife

Vermont Eagle Population Soars

Vermont has long lagged behind the other New England states in bald eagle populations. Even when bald eagle populations in neighboring states recovered to the point where they had dozens of nesting pairs, Vermont was still not home to eagles that were successfully raising young.

That changed in 2008, when a single pair fledged a single chick. In 2009, the state did its best to help a second breeding eagle pair that lost their nest when the tree it was in fell down. Now, just four years after that first eagle fledged, 23 eagles were fledged in 15 Vermont nests this year, reports the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Read the Vermont Fish and Wildlife press release, here.
Read Vermont’s bald eagle recovery plan, here.

Oregon and Florida Propose Bear Plans

Black bearThe first update to Oregon’s bear management plan in 14 years was announced late last month. Most of the bears killed in Oregon last year were hunted, an article in the Oregon Mail-Tribune reports:

1,772 bears were killed statewide, with 1,346 of them killed by sport hunters and another 352 bears killed as a result of damage incidents, the draft states. Along with the 22 bears killed over safety complaints, another 52 died as a result of miscellaneous categories such as roadkill, accidental death or poaching.

The plan is expected to be approved in June.

Read the Oregon Mail-Tribune article, here.
Find a 60-page PDF of the draft management plan from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, here.
Read the ODFW press release, here.

Florida has revised its draft black bear management plan after receiving 2,500 public comments on the original draft of the plan. The plan will remove the species for the state’s list of threatened species. It will also create seven black bear management units. This plan is also expected to be accepted in June.

Read an article in the Palm Beach Post News.
Read the Florida Wildlife Commission press release, here.
Find the draft management plan, here.

Photo: Black bear, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Revised: BLM Takes the Lead in Sage Grouse Management

Please note the revision to the earlier version of this post. Changes are in blue. 

About a month ago, according to the New York Times, top state wildlife agency officials in Nevada, Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming asked the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to take the lead in coordinating efforts to conserve the remaining greater sage grouse population, since more than half of the greater sage grouse’s remaining habitat is on BLM land. (Read the NYT article here.)

At the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ summer conference earlier this month, BLM more or less agreed to that role, saying that, “In response to requests from state and local governments to facilitate ways to conserve greater sage-grouse and protect its habitat” it is putting together a strategy for greater sage grouse conservation that will emphasize partnerships and agreements between stakeholders. (Read the BLM announcement here.)

The BLM’s announcement breaks greater sage grouse habitat into two sections: an eastern section where the biggest threat is energy development (oil, gas and wind) and a western section where the greatest threats are invasive species (which other sources say is primarily cheatgrass), and wildfires. (Read the further info on the plan provided by BLM here.)

The NY Times article says that the BLM plan uses Wyoming’s “core area” strategy as its base. This strategy says that only five percent of the land can be developed within four miles of a known greater sage grouse lek (or breeding area). (Read Land Letter’s article on Wyoming’s “core area” strategy here.) And yes, that restricts development on some 15 million acres in Wyoming.

A BLM spokeswoman said that it is more accurate to say that the BLM plan is “informed” by the Wyoming plan. Different strategies will be put in place in different locations, depending on on-the-ground factors. She says that the strategy is a framework, not a document. The specifics are still evolving.

Read the articles, including this one in the Sacramento Bee, for more info on the greater sage grouse’s bid for listing under the Endangered Species Act (it was deemed warranted but precluded, which is now known, confusingly, as being a “candidate” species) and how the continued threat of its listing is driving this conservation activity.

Check out these articles from WyoFile, which give a lot more detail than was available when we first posted this news:
An article about Wyoming’s management plan.
An article about whether or not sage grouse will be listed as endangered species.

Photo: Greater sage grouse by Stephen Ting. Courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service.