July 19, 2014
ELKO — Sage-grouse experts flocked to Elko this week to exchange the latest scientific data about a bird that has grabbed the attention of agency and industry alike.
Every other year, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies organizes a sage grouse and Colombian sharp tail grouse workshop to discuss everything from the birds’ biology to their ecosystem. The Elko Convention Center hosted the 29th annual event this year.
The gathering began Monday and will continue through today. On Wednesday, participants were invited on a daylong tour to “grouse country,” according to an agenda schedule.
Nevada Department of Wildlife Director Tony Wasley, who attended Tuesday’s symposium sessions, said the workshop brings together the world’s top sage-grouse researchers to collaborate and share their knowledge, information, research and management ideas.
Wasley estimated about 200 people attended Tuesday, with about 60 people each representing federal agencies, state wildlife agencies, and university researchers, with the remainder made up of industry representatives.
“We’re learning a tremendous amount about the way they use habitat,” Wasley said. “… And how much fidelity they have for those sites.”
Wasley said one presentation focused on sage grouse selecting habitat using subtle sight and smell queues that go beyond the spectrum detectable to the human eye or nose.
After listening to opening remarks by U.S. Fish and Wildlife state Director Ted Koch, Ruby Valley rancher Cliff Gardner said he was concerned with the amount of federal tax dollars conservation is projected to cost, particularly in light of a growing national debt.
Gardner said he was also concerned with the weight given to formal research at the expense of knowledge gained by landowners who have spent their lives on the range.
“One of the greatest problems we have is too much faith is being put into academia and not enough credit is given to practical experience regarding land issues,” he said.
The workshop also includes information about the seldom talked about sharp tail grouse, which Wasley said had been extirpated from Nevada although his department is involved in a reintroduction program in Elko County.
A third symposium session begins 8 a.m. today at the Elko Convention Center and the public is welcome to attend.