Montana To Supply Sage Grouse for Canadian Restoration Efforts

Montana To Supply Sage Grouse for Canadian Restoration Efforts
Draft EA on Alberta Sage Grouse Proposal to be Released on Dec. 14.

Sage Grouse
Sage Grouse
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

GLASGOW, Mont. –-( Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) has developed a Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed action of trans-locating up to 40 sage grouse from northeastern Montana to the Canadian province of Alberta.

In Canada sage grouse are classified as an endangered species, and Canadian wildlife officials say sage grouse numbers in southeastern Alberta have declined about 80 percent since 1970. In fact, fewer than 100 male birds have been observed annually on southeastern Alberta breeding display sites, commonly known as leks, since 1992.

Biologists say Alberta sage grouse numbers are continuing to decline. The proposed translocation is intended to counter further population losses or extirpation of the Alberta sub-population.

According to FWP Region 6 Wildlife Program Manager Mark Sullivan, the Montana sage grouse potentially would be captured in various locations in southern Valley and Phillips counties and then moved to suitable silver sage brush habitat in Alberta where the native birds are still found.

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (ASRD), a ministry within the provincial government, is requesting up to 40 sage grouse from Montana to be translocated in the spring of 2011. All captured and released birds would be fitted with GPS radios allowing Canadian biologists to follow the birds and determine their survival and reproductive success.

Contingent on the first year’s success, more sage grouse potentially could be moved to Alberta in the future. Any additional translocation efforts would require separate environmental reviews.

Sullivan said the Canadian birds are often closely associated with the northern Montana sage grouse. Sage grouse habitat also has improved at the proposed transplant site. Modeling projections, based on decreasing oil and gas activity, show that habitat conditions will continue to improve well into the future, so the proposed translocation would be biologically sound, he said. Sullivan added that information gained from this study will also be useful in other areas where translocation may be considered.

Surveys show there are 202 known sage grouse leks just in FWP Region 6 alone. Sage grouse populations are monitored by counting male sage grouse on leks. Across FWP Region 6 there has been an average of 22.8 male sage grouse observed per lek over the past 10 years and an average of 20.5 males observed per lek over the past 20 years.

In the big sagebrush habitat of south Phillips and Valley counties, 21 sage grouse leks have been routinely monitored and average 37.5 males per lek over the past five years.

“Sage grouse numbers in northern Montana have been stable, and we are confident that the proposed translocation of these birds to Alberta will not harm the population here,” Sullivan said.

The Draft EA will be released for public review on Dec. 14, and the public comment period on the proposal will run until Jan. 14, 2011. A final EA and formal record of decision is expected to be completed on Jan. 21. If approval of the proposal is recommended, the FWP Commission will consider the translocation request when it meets on Feb. 10.

The Draft EA will be available online at: . Printed versions of the document can be obtained by contacting the Region 6 office at (406) 228-3700. Written comments can be mailed to: Sage Grouse Comments, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 54078 U.S. Highway 2 West, Glasgow, MT 59230 or to by electronic mail. Comments also can be made by going to:

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