For Immediate Release: August 31, 2020
Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project, (307) 399-7910
Nancy Hilding, Prairie Hills Audubon Society, (605) 787-6466
RAPID CITY, S.D. – Last Thursday, Western Watersheds Project and Prairie Hills Audubon petitioned the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Commission to list the greater sage grouse as “threatened” under the state’s Endangered Species Law. The petition cited the declining population of birds, ongoing threats, and a lack of mandatory conservation protections as justifications to protect the greater sage grouse under state law.
“The sage grouse is going extinct in South Dakota, and right now all we’re seeing is random acts of conservation,” said Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist and Executive Director with Western Watersheds Project. “If the sage grouse doesn’t get measurable, enforceable standards to protect its habitats, it will continue its vanishing act on the Northern Plains.”
Each year, state biologists count the number of male sage grouse that show up on leks, the traditional breeding and display sites, as an index of the overall grouse population. In 2020, the state counted 158 males, which translates to a total population of only 632 birds, according to the conservation groups.
“The sage grouse is one of South Dakota’s most charismatic birds, and it will be a black mark on our state if we allow it to be extirpated from SD. We may have already lost the grouse in southwest South Dakota and fear also losing it in northwest South Dakota,” said Nancy Hilding of Prairie Hills Audubon Society in Black Hawk, South Dakota.
The Commission will give the petition an initial review at the next Commission meeting, either on September 2nd or 3rd. If the Commission moves the petition forward into formal rule making, it will have a public hearing on the merits at some point in the future, perhaps in November. SD Game, Fish and Parks Commission is having virtual meetings on both Tuesday and Wednesday. The public can testify in person by Zoom/teleconference on Wednesday, September 2nd starting at 2 pm CT during rule finalization section or in the “open forum.” Visit this link to the “Current Meeting Overview” web page, to learn about the upcoming Commission meeting: https://gfp.sd.gov/commission/information/.
The instructions on how to attend the meeting by the Zoom/teleconference call are in the agenda: https://gfp.sd.gov/UserDocs/nav/Commission_Agenda_9.2020.pdf.