August 12, 2011
Nevada Wildlife Commissioner Plans to Ban Sage Grouse Hunting
By Chad Love
In many states, seats on the commissions that oversee and set policy for state wildlife and/or game and fish agencies are political appointments, with the only qualification being your level of friendship and/or monetary donation to whomever (usually governors) appoints the post. And as hunters in states with such arrangements surely know, this sometimes means they are "represented" by "wildlife" commissioners who have their own, rather than wildlife or hunters' best interests at heart. Sometimes it's subtle, and sometimes they come right out and say it, like the Nevada wildlife commissioner who wants to ban the state's sage grouse season because he's worried the bird's possible listing under the Endangered Species Act might eventually inconvenience oil and gas development, mining, livestock grazing on public land and the construction of transmission lines. Really...
From this story on seattlepi.com:
The Nevada Wildlife Commission is being asked to ban hunting for sage grouse statewide as a way to help keep the bird off the federal list of threatened and endangered species, while state biologists say hunting has little impact on its population. Commissioner Henry Vogler said he intends to press for the closure of the hunting season during the panel's meeting Friday and Saturday in Fallon. The Ely rancher said if the federal government grants the bird protection under the Endangered Species Act, it could result in dramatic restrictions on livestock grazing and mining, among other things.
"We have to do something that shows we are on top of our game," Vogler told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "I want the discussion to be done, and I want it done now, not two years from now." State biologists say wildfires and development pose much greater threats to sage grouse than hunting, which is not allowed in prime habitat areas. "Hunting as a factor is pretty low on the totem pole," said Shawn Espinosa, upland game specialist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife. "Whether or not we're hunting the bird is not going to make much of a difference in whether U.S. Fish and Wildlife decides to list this species."
Vogler, ranching's representative on the wildlife panel, sees a real threat posed by a possible listing to Nevada's vital agricultural and mining industries. "The sage hen is going to be our spotted owl," Vogler said, comparing the situation with the issue that profoundly impacted the timber industry in the Pacific Northwest. Doing away with grouse hunting might send a needed signal that Nevada is taking steps to protect the bird and that federal intervention is unnecessary, Vogler said. "If we're killing 9,000 of them a year, wouldn't that be 9,000 more of them?" Vogler said. "That's 9,000 more reasons they shouldn't be on the Endangered Species List.
So, in essence, this wildlife commissioner wants to ban an activity that has little to no impact on sage grouse populations as a pre-emptive strike to help shelter and protect the activities that ARE having a negative impact on sage grouse populations. Brilliant. There's a pitch-perfect microcosm of modern politics right there folks. Thoughts?