[Tweeters] Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Status in Washington

Denis DeSilvis avnacrs4birds at outlook.com
Sun Jan 21 14:01:20 PST 2018


Tweeters,

Some of you might have seen the results of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) meeting that was held on Jan 18-20 -- and what was stated regarding the FWC's decision to uplist the status of the Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse (CSTG) from "threatened" to "endangered." (See the statement at the end of this message.)


Although the FWC wanted to uplist the grouse, because the criteria for uplisting had been set at 450 birds, and the last count (2017) had 608 birds, their hands (as well as those of the WDFW) were shackled. Nonetheless, there is a process to reclassify the species, and the Commission voted to direct the WDFW to initiate that process.


I don't want to take up your time with the process, but by about June (perhaps sooner), the process should be complete. Part of the process includes public input, and this is where you come in. If you're at all interested in the Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse, please send your comments in when it comes time. (I'll make Tweeter-dom aware of the timing, where to send letters and email, etc.)


Because of letters from the Wildlife Diversity Advisory Council and Seattle Audubon Society, and testimony from representatives of Audubon Washington, the Wildlife Diversity Advisory Council, and Tahoma Audubon Society, the Commission members understood that the 608 CSTG's that were counted existed in 8 non-contiguous areas, and not one area contained the 200 birds considered to be a viable population.


Unfortunately, from my perspective, it appears that birders in Washington aren't as enthralled with Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse as they are with Greater Sage Grouse, despite the fact that CSTG was once the most populous grouse in Eastern Washington. Without the work of the Wildlife Diversity Advisory Council underscoring the need for enhanced protection, and support from Audubon Washington, Seattle Audubon Society, and Tahoma Audubon Society, the Fish and Wildlife Commission would likely not have understood the perilous status of the grouse. Note: I am sorely perplexed by the lack of support for uplisting by Audubon societies and other wildlife groups from east of the Cascades.


Here's the FWC's statement:
...the commission directed WDFW staff to initiate a public process to strengthen the conservation and protection of the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, which has been classified as a threatened species under state law since 1998. Commission members said they favored elevating the level of protection to endangered, which could increase the likelihood of the species' survival and recovery.
In the 1800s, the sharp-tailed grouse was the most abundant game bird in eastern Washington, with its highest densities in relatively moist grassland and sagebrush vegetation. But with much of its habitat converted to cropland, and in the wake of major fires in 2015, the population has declined to an estimated total of less than 600 birds.
In the coming weeks, WDFW will seek public comments on the proposed change within a timetable that will enable the commission to make a final decision later this year.


May all your birds be identified,

Denis DeSilvis

avnacrs4birds at outlook.com
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