Gunnison Sage Grouse transplants may be coming to San Juan County. Guy Wallace, of the Division of Wildlife Resources, told the County Commission on July 23 that the opportunity to transplant Gunnison Sage Grouse from Colorado has been given to the county.
Wallace said Colorado has a transplant program to supply birds to smaller populations and that San Juan County has been on the priority list for awhile. The county moved up the list because other areas weren’t ready or able to take birds at this time.
Wallace said the transplant is part of a proposal by the Nature Conservancy, where additional land will be purchased to improve the grouse habitat. If the proposal is approved, San Juan will receive 45 birds – 15 this fall, 15 in the spring and 15 the fall of 2013.
Wallace reported that they have done three successful transplants in the Dove Creek area. He reports that they are working on predator control as well, specifically coyotes and ravens.
San Juan County Planner Nick Sandburg asked if the transplant would be enough to prevent the birds from being listed as an endangered species. Wallace said if the population is stable, it is less likely to meet the criteria US Fish and Wildlife has for listing a species.
Wallace said the birds could be relisted as a candidate species, but if they can demonstrate a stable population, the likelihood goes down.
Sandburg questioned if 45 birds is enough to stabilize the population. Wallace said that is the number they are focusing on for each of the transplants.
Wallace said, “If we can demonstrate they are a stable population, then that’s one of the threats we have eliminated. The other is protection of habitat. We are doing that through this purchase, which will be a significant increase in the amount of habitat that is protected.”
He also said that transplanting is part of the objectives for the range-wide and local working groups.
Wallace said there is a 30 percent survival rate for the young in the best of years. A larger population will stabilize the bird population, with more genetic diversity.
Commissioner Phil Lyman said the main objective in Washington, DC is not to save sage grouse, or they would address predator control. Lyman said, “It is just another arrow in the quiver of the environmental groups to control what happens.”
Wallace said the transplant must be approved by the Regional Advisory Council and the Wildlife Board. He said the state does not want to see birds listed but wants to keep local management control.
Wallace said the purpose behind the local and the range-wide working groups is to develop a conservation plan and keep the bird from being listed.
USU Extension Agent Jim Keyes said, “Guy [Wallace] has made a great effort to help the land owners and wanting to keep the control of this under the State where it should be and not in Washington somewhere. If they will give us the time to show that all these things are happening, I think it can be a very good thing.”
Wallace said there will be opportunity for public comment and an official county statement prior to the transplant.
In other matters, County Clerk Norman Johnson reported that 2012 Tax Valuations will be mailed this week. Johnson said he reviewed many residential bills and all he looked at receive a tax reduction.
Johnson also reported that the Board of Equalization will be held August 13 from 1 to 5 p.m. and August 20 from 3 to 6 p.m.
In other business, the Sheriff’s Office was reorganized. JJ Bradford is now a detective and Lehi Lacy is over the South County Search and Rescue.
Scott Lamkins was hired part-time at the La Sal Senior Center while Camille Rowley, Kristalee Shumway and Jenna Swidnicky are part-time at the Monticello Library. All hires replace employees who have left the county.