Mono County Board of Supervisors continued their quest to prevent the threatened listing and critical habitat designation for the Greater sage-grouse at their regular meeting on Tuesday, May 20. Wendy Sugimura, Community Development County Staff, presented the Board with a final draft of their comment letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), stating that the 2012 Bi-State Action Plan is sufficient to protect the bird “without the burden of additional regulatory oversight.”
The County hopes to prove that the Action Plan meets the USFWS’ requirements foras an effective conservation plan without listing the bird. “The County’s goal is to support the various federal and state agencies in California and Nevada to show the Bi-State Action Plan meets [the USFWS’] policy,” Sugimura told The Sheet. The proposed listing will affect Carson City, Lyon, Douglas, Mineral and Esmeralda counties in Nevada, and Alpine, Inyo, and Mono in California.
The letter also presents new research released in 2014 by the Bureau of Land Management and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, stating that livestock grazing of sagebrush is compatible with sage-grouse conservation. Since the sage-grouse cannot survive in habitats without sagebrush, grazing prevention is part of the reason behind the listing.
“The listing has the potential to severely restrict 82 percent of private properties,” Sugimura told The Sheet. With only 6 percent of Mono County land privately owned, the listing could significantly affect the county’s income, Sugimura said: “Property taxes generate 45 percent of the General Fund, and agriculture, which requires both some of these private lands and leased public lands, is the second largest economy in Mono County.”
The USFWS reopened the public comment periods for the listing and critical habitat designation until June 9. An economic impact analysis measuring the effects on businesses and landowners has an anticipated release of early June and will be accompanied by another comment period for the critical habitat designation.
“If landowners are interested in avoiding the listing, the only option Mono County has identified is to support the refinement and implementation of the 2012 Bi-State Action Plan,” she said. After the bird is listed, landowners will have to consult directly with the USFWS about their options. Sugimura said that interested landowners should attend a special workshop hosted by the Local Area Working Group on May 27 at the Memorial Hall in Bishop, or contact her directly at email@example.com.
The Board will testify and present their comment letter to USFWS representatives at the Public Hearing at the Tri-County Fairgrounds in Bishop on Thursday, May 29. According to Sugimura, the hearing is only a formality and there will not be any discussion: “The County will only accomplish sharing our perspective and position with the public and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” she said.