In response to a large turnout at its latest meeting, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will not close the sage grouse season in NE Wyoming.

From this story in the Casper Star Tribune:

Despite recent declines in sage grouse in northeast Wyoming, a three-day hunting season will continue this fall. Dozens of people came to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission meeting Wednesday protesting a proposal to close the sage grouse hunting season in northeast Wyoming. After hours of debate, largely from falconers and other groups, the commission ultimately voted to keep the season open. Game and Fish biologists proposed closing the season because of declines in the population and because some members of the public worry hunting a species that could be placed on the endangered species list isn’t a good idea, said Tom Christiansen, sage grouse program coordinator for Game and Fish.

Most of the people attending the meeting argued that rather than penalizing hunting, which isn’t a factor in the sage grouse’s decline, the state should work harder to reclaim and protect sage grouse habitat from oil and gas exploration.

A recent study by the University of Montana, commissioned by the Bureau of Reclamation in Montana and Wyoming, listed the West Nile virus and energy development as stressors on the population…About a dozen people spoke about the possible closure at the meeting and only Jim Magagna, president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, supported the change. If other groups such as the agriculture and energy industry have to make changes for sage grouse survival, hunters should also be willing to make consolations, he said.

Most others said the proposal to end hunting was based on politics and not biology. “Predators are an issue, but habitat is a greater issue,” said Jill Morrison, a community organizer for the Powder River Basin Resource Council. “If you don’t have the habitat, you don’t have the species.” To sustain a viable population, the commission should focus not on changing the hunting season but on pressuring the Bureau of Land Management and area industry to reclaim sage grouse habitat, she said.

Thoughts? Reaction?