Divisions resurface in Nevada sage grouse plans

CARSON CITY — Deep divisions in Nevada’s approach to sage grouse have resurfaced in the state’s fragile attempt to keep the bird off the list of endangered species and avoid economic consequences for ranching, mining and alternative energy development across large swaths of land.

At issue is whether the state’s course emphasizes protecting industry interests over ensuring the bird’s survival.

Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed a nine-member committee last year to devise a plan to convince the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that Nevada will protect the bird, making federal government intervention unnecessary despite conservationists’ claims it’s threatened with extinction.

In 2010, the federal agency determined that the greater sage grouse warranted protection but that other species took priority. The agency is now under court mandate to decide by 2015 whether the chicken-size bird found in 11 western states still warrants protection, or if plans being put forth by states will eliminate threats to its existence.

Building consensus for those plans has not been easy, nowhere more so than in Nevada, where sage grouse is often referred to in cattle country as a “stupid bird.” Last year rural Elko County interests claimed credit for the ouster of the previous state wildlife director who they deemed too pro-sage grouse.

The governor denied the claim, but new Nevada Department of Wildlife Director Tony Wasley already has gotten a taste of the politically charged fight over how public lands should be used.

Last month, he was chastised when he submitted the state agency’s response to Fish & Wildlife Service on alternatives to protect sage grouse without first passing them through the governor’s appointed Sagebrush Ecosystem Council. The SEC, as it’s called, has representatives from mining, ranching, agriculture, sportsmen, energy, conservation, local and tribal governments and the general public.

J.J. Goicoechea, a Eureka County commissioner, rancher and local government representative, took umbrage when the Department of Wildlife in its comments suggested limiting grazing near sage grouse habitat and more closely monitoring grazing’s effect on the range shared by cattle, grouse and other wildlife.

The council, in its own comments to the agency, said the federal government’s preferred action contradicts mandates to manage public lands for multiple users and ignores benefits of livestock grazing and predator control.

Goicoechea complained the wildlife department’s position “caught us by surprise” and included “anti-mining language.”

Wasley tried to smooth ruffled feathers and submitted a mea culpa to Sandoval.

“I acknowledge and take full responsibility for an unintentional oversight made by the Department of Wildlife in our efforts related to collaboratively developing the state of Nevada’s strategy to preclude the need to list the greater sage-grouse,” Wasley wrote in a Feb. 9 letter to Sandoval. “In the future we will proactively present our concerns to the Sagebrush Ecosystem Council and better coordinate our comment approach.”

But the dustup renewed concerns among some conservationists that scientists at the wildlife agency are being muffled.

“Without NDOW’s ability to speak freely and openly about sage grouse needs, the state of Nevada has no standing to manage sage grouse,” conservationist Tina Nappe wrote in a Feb. 22 email to Goicoechea and her fellow SEC members.

“If you feel it is important to express the views of livestock operators, rural counties and bash the federal government, then perhaps the chairmanship should be passed to someone who can represent a broader segment of the SEC and also Nevada,” wrote Nappe, a former state wildlife commissioner.

Experts think 2 million sage grouse inhabited the West when Lewis and Clark first noted them in 1805. Today their numbers are estimated at about 200,000.

Shrinking and fractured habitat is one of the biggest threats to the bird’s survival, scientists say. Wildfires are blamed for a lot of lost habitat.

Last fall the federal government released a draft Environmental Impact Statement — thousands of pages long — detailing six alternative plans, with one plan being deemed preferable by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S Forest Service. The preferred action would, among other things, exclude or restrict new recreational facilities, wind and solar energy development and mineral development in sage grouse habitat.

Such restrictions would be felt deeply in Nevada with its 17 million acres of sage grouse habitat.

The federal government is now considering thousands of comments received and will release a final environmental impact assessment this year.

Wasley said the wildlife agency’s goal was to take aspects of Nevada’s plan for sage grouse management “and build them into the BLM’s preferred alternative.”

“This is a new process,” he said. “There are nuances that we need to figure out on where best to raise our concerns and how best to vet them.”

Despite her criticisms, Nappe said she’s hopeful the process will work.

“It’s still a beginning and we can make adjustments,” she said Thursday. “I have to be optimistic and I really do care that it succeeds.”

Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Volunteers gather for annual Clark County homeless count
Volunteers gather for the annual Southern Nevada Homeless Census, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who can understand hospital price lists?
Lists of costs for procedures, drugs and devices are now posted the websites of hospitals to comply with a new federal rule designed to provide additional consumer transparency. Good luck figuring out what they mean.
People in Mesquite deal with a massive power outage
People in Mesquite respond to a major power outage in the area on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Group helping stranded motorists during power outage
A group of Good Samaritans are offering free gas to people in need at the Glendale AM/PM, during a massive power outage near Mesquite on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen falls at Las Vegas parade
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada fell and injured her wrist at the Martin Luther King Day parade in Las Vegas on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local astronomers host super blood wolf moon viewing
The Las Vegas Astronomical Society paired with the College of Southern Nevada to host a lunar eclipse viewing Sunday night. Known as the super blood wolf moon, the astronomical event won't occur for another 18 years. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Tate Elementary shows academic progress after categorical funding
Students at Tate Elementary in Las Vegas has benefited from a program to boost education funding in targeted student populations, known as categorical funding. One program called Zoom helps students who have fallen below grade level in reading. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @btesfaye
First former felon to work for Nevada Department of Corrections
After his father died, Michael Russell struggled for years with drug addiction. When he finally decided to change for good, he got sober and worked for years to help others. Now he is the first former felon to be hired by the Nevada Department of Corrections. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Three Square helps TSA workers
Three Square Food Bank donated over 400 care bags to TSA workers affected by the government shutdown Wednesday, filled with food, personal hygiene products and water.
Las Vegas furniture store donates to Clark County firehouses
Walker Furniture donated new mattresses to all 30 Clark County firehouses in the Las Vegas Valley, starting today with Station 22. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Holocaust survivor on acceptance
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, talks about the most important message for people to understand from her life and experiences.
Holocaust survivor speaks about telling her story
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, tells of opening up about her experiences during Sunday’s event at Temple Sinai.
Jesus Jara State of the Schools address
Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara delivers his State of the Schools address on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing