wary of grouse agreement
Creston, Wash., rancher
Dawn Nelson and other ranchers are concerned about a
proposed agreement for sage grouse habitat management. The
agreement is not realistic for ranchers, Nelson says.
Wash. — Four Eastern Washington ranchers say they’re concerned
they will lose their private property rights if they sign a
voluntary agreement designed to protect them from legal
repercussions if something happens to a sage grouse on their
Fish and Wildlife Service is finalizing a Washington state
candidate conservation agreement with assurances — called a CCAA
— for ranchers to take measures to protect sage grouse on their
property. Consultation and conservation planning division
manager Bridget Moran said the agency is negotiating with the
state Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington Cattlemen’s
Association to finalize the agreement for publication and public
Wash., rancher Dawn Nelson says she would have to reduce her
herd of more than 120 by roughly half if she were to sign up
because of a rotational grazing requirement in the CCAA.
it’s voluntary to sign up, but if you don’t sign up and you
happen to have a bird die on your place or an accidental take,
they can come back and sue you,” Nelson said.
sticking points in the draft agreement for Nelson and her
vehicular activity unless essential within 4 miles of occupied “leks,”
an area where birds gather during the breeding season to attract
mates, between February and July.
harvest within 4 miles of active leks between April and August.
activity two hours before sunset and two hours after sunrise
within 1.5 miles of an active lek.
the department to access the farmer’s land with prior
the agreement may work for some ranchers, but she and several
neighbors are not inclined to sign up.
great idea, but I don’t know how they can enforce that on
private landowners,” she said. “I would rather be the owner of
my land and not a permittee. Within seven pages of this draft,
you become a permittee on your own private ground.”
the plan uses an example found to be successful in Oregon. The
agency has made adjustments to its drafts based on feedback from
ranchers, she said.
the ranching community in other parts of the range have found
them to be something they can incorporate into their business
practices without tremendous difficulty,” she said. “We’re
hoping we’re able to do that here as well.”
Cattlemen’s Association executive vice president Jack Field said
the latest draft is an improvement over original drafts and
focus more on landowner concerns.
the agreements have to provide enough protection and assurance
to justify the expense for ranchers.
“We want to
make sure we can create the best possible tool to provide the
greatest level of protection not only to landowners but also to
the bird,” he said.
take is a concern if the sage grouse are eventually protected
under the Endangered Species Act, Field said.
doesn’t have to mean a dead bird, take could simply mean adverse
modification of habitat,” he said.
wonders who makes the determination over whether a farmer’s
activity within range of a lek is needed.
it ‘unnecessary,’ but who decides what’s unnecessary?” Nelson
farmer does anything unnecessary?” asked Dennis Jessup, one of
Nelson’s neighbors in the Wilbur-Creston area. Jessup runs 200
cows, but said he’s not sure how much he’d have to cut until he
knows for sure what the agreement seeks.
wants the sage grouse to be around,” neighboring rancher Michele
Rosman said. “I think what we know works and what they think
works is two completely different things, and we’re not going to
bend over for that. If we thought they could manage theirs,
that’d be different. But they can’t manage theirs, so what makes
them think they can manage ours?”
think the cattle is the problem here,” Nelson said, noting there
are coyotes, wolves, hawks, owls and eagles all around. “They’re
going to have to be able to control the predators and keep these
grouse alive. You can’t put this on the cow, because I have
never seen a cow eat a sage grouse. Ever.”
Matthew Weaver/Capital Press Creston, Wash.,
rancher Dawn Nelson and neighboring rancher Loren Brougher
look to one another April 30 while standing on what is
normally a lake on Nelson's property, but is dried out
months earlier than normal due to drought conditions. Nelson
and Brougher are leery of signing up for a candidate
conservation agreement with assurances to protect the sage
grouse, currently in the draft process, because they say its
requirements don't factor in situations like drought, among
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C.
section 107, any copyrighted material
herein is distributed without profit or
payment to those who have expressed a
prior interest in receiving this
information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only. For more
information go to: