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Good News for California’s Clear Lake Sage-Grouse!

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Western Watersheds Project’s California Director Dr. Michael Connor has successfully convinced the Modoc National Forest not to authorize three new water development projects in crucial sage-grouse habitat around Clear Lake on the California-Oregon border. This is the second time that WWP’s challenge to the projects has shut them down.

The Forest Service keeps trying to build new water development projects on the Tucker and Carr grazing allotments, but these lands include the only nesting habitat that remains on the entire Modoc National Forest for the Clear Lake-Devil’s Garden population of sage-grouse. The proposed projects include digging two wells, installing pipelines and adding thirty new troughs all to benefit livestock grazing in the ongoing drought. This small population of sage-grouse is already threatened by extensive fencing and existing grazing infrastructure, by habitat degradation and disturbance from grazing livestock, and are risk from infection with West Nile Virus that is spread by water developments. These birds don’t need more cattle and less habitat, and they certainly don’t need thirty more mosquito incubators! 

The Clear Lake sage-grouse are the westernmost population of greater sage-grouse. This isolated population is non-migratory and their loss would result in a major range contraction for the species. The birds need the habitat on these two Forest Service allotments if they are to survive and recover.

The Forest Service has been trying to authorize these projects independent of grazing permit renewals and without considering all of the impacts. Western Watersheds Project successfully appealed the permit renewal decision on the Tucker allotment in 2007and the agency hasn’t reissued it. It’s past time for the Forest to stop trying to put in stopgap measures to benefit cows and instead to knuckle down and do its job of completing a full environmental review of grazing.

In the meantime these California sage-grouse have three fewer threats to worry about, which is good news for the beleaguered bird. 

More photos from the Modoc NF project area can be seen here. 

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