Ken Mirr is a proud board member of the Western Landowners Alliance. This week, fellow board members, Mary Conover and Kenyon Fields wrote an op-ed piece in The Salt Lake Tribune entitled “Op-ed: With Right Incentives, Ranchers Want to Help Sage Grouse”. The article is about continual conservation efforts of local Gunnison sage grouse and the federal government’s efforts to list the bird species as threatened. Local ranchers and landowners try to mitigate threatened listings of species in their regions. When a species of animal is deemed “threatened” it creates further restrictions on grazing and overall ranching practices. For these reasons, locals try as hard as they can to voluntarily conserve the species by altering how their land is managed.
When Mary and Kenyon first began their conservation endeavors to protect this specific type of grouse, they included fellow ranch neighbors in the process, as it was a voluntary drive to protect the species. After a couple years of individual efforts, many locals decided to effectively join “The Sage Grouse Conservation Plan” which was created by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the Colorado and Utah wildlife agencies to conserve the greater sage grouse.
Mary and Kenyon were able to receive a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA). This assurance gave the landowners the necessary tools to change their management operations in order to successfully conserve the small population of grouse within their borders. Individuals who received support, were able to effectively preserve the bird’s habitat and have even been able to increase the population size in those areas. Yet, these incredible conservation efforts made by Gunnison locals weren’t enough for the federal government.
The article goes on to dispute the inefficiencies with the CCAA Mary and Kenyon were able to receive. Many neighbors who are also concerned with the sage grouse threatened listing, applied for a CCAA. These individuals wanted to stop the listing of the greater sage grouse by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and protect the land they have. The Salt Lake City Tribune article says that a majority of these landowners did not receive the CCAA they applied for because of the “understaffing” and “resource shortages” within the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Due to these insufficiencies the federal government deemed the voluntary conservation efforts of these locals as inadequate, and went along with the listing of the bird.
Mary and Kenyon urge Congress to use this localized case of the Gunnison sage grouse as an example of what voluntary conservation can accomplish. The federal government needs to support these local movements for sustainable change instead of going above the state efforts and merely listing the species. Sometimes federal agency intervention is not the key to conservation; sometimes it merely takes a couple of local and passionate individuals who know the land to effect change. Here, at Mirr Ranch Group, we are grateful that individuals like Mary Conover and Kenyon Fields are vocalizing their concerns for overall conservation of the West. To learn about more projects you can get involved with, visit the Western Landowners Alliance main website for further information.