State DWR requests delay of sage grouse designation
by Trudy De Angelis
A federal government plan to designate Gunnison sage grouse as an endangered species was the main issue again on March 25 at the San Juan County Commission meeting.
Bill Bates, of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), reported that he had counted sage grouse on Monday morning. He saw nine males and a bunch of hens.
Bates said the DWR put a conservation strategy into place last year and it is a great plan. DWR has asked the US Fish and Wildlife to hold off on their designation of sage grouse habitat for ten years to give them time to implement their plan.
Bates added that the historical habitat designated by the Fish and Wildlife is not accurate.
“We can do it better than they can,” said Bates. “We are the ones doing the work. We have a conservation strategy in place.”
The proposed habitat designation would impact 35 percent of private land in the county. There are 1,221 parcels in the proposed habitat and 440 individual landowners.
Commissioner Bruce Adams said it was not only the listed property owners, but also their families that would be impacted for generations to come.
Robin Cahoons, legal affairs coordinator for the DWR, said that many people confuse the Greater sage grouse with the Gunnison sage grouse. San Juan County is the only county in Utah that have Gunnison sage grouse.
San Juan County Planner Nick Sandberg presented a Memo of Understanding (MOU) for commission approval. The MOU is endorsed by ten counties in Colorado and San Juan County in Utah.
“This MOU connects our working groups for collaboration” said Commissioner Lyman. There will be two more hearings on the sage grouse issue, one in Montrose, CO and one in Monticello or Dove Creek.
A socio/economic analysis of the designation is under development. Bob Turri said the county should insist that US Fish and Wildlife provide an Environmental Impact Statement.
Dr. Bob McPherson and Dr. Jared Barrett presented a project geared toward tourism for the county. They are working with the San Juan Heritage Council and San Juan Historical Committee to bring more tourism to the area and share ancestral heritage with visitors.
The project, entitled Teachings of the Land, will include a computer app and five guide books of about 120 pages each. Visitors could learn more about the area and its population by following the app or reading along in the guide book as they travel area roads.
Guide books are planned for Navajo, Ute, Anasazi, Mormons, cowboys and others. McPherson and Barrett need $20,000 in start-up money. The commission granted $5,000, with the travel commission giving $5,000. They will approach the Utah Travel Commission for the remainder. Start-up money will be used for the technology portion of the project and to build kiosks.
County Assessor Howard Randall presented a list of tax-exempt properties for approval.
New county administrator Kelly Pehrson requested a new desk for his office.