Reno, Nevada. Aug. 5, 2014. The following op-ed from Washoe County Chair David Humke and Commissioner Kitty Jung was published in the Reno Gazette-Journal Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014:
The Nevada sage-grouse is nearing a crossroads. Next year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will determine whether to add sage-grouse to the endangered species list. The decision regarding sage- grouse is a monumental one that will have a broad impact on Nevadans.
If you aren’t familiar with sage-grouse, they are the largest grouse in North America. Males can weigh anywhere from 4 to 7 pounds. Sage-grouse live in elevations ranging from 4,000 to 9,000 feet and feed primarily on sagebrush.
Listing sage-grouse as an endangered species could potentially have wide-reaching effects in Washoe County and Nevada. It could have a negative impact on the mining industry if roads used to get metals from mine sites to markets are closed off in order to protect sage-grouse habitat. It could also restrict grazing, which is a key part of the economy in northern Washoe County.
Our community needs a plan to manage the sage-grouse in a way that protects their habitat while also allowing economic planning for Nevada industries. History shows loss of sage-grouse habitat and populations has occurred across all land management types and solutions to prevent further damage require cooperation from federal, state, tribal and private landowners.
We believe the best solutions to local issues are homegrown and do not come from Washington, D.C. or anywhere else. That is why we, along with the rest of the Board of County Commissioners, support a plan from Senator Reid and Senator Heller to protect our sage-grouse habitat. We are united on this issue; so much so that at last month’s Board of County Commissioner’s meeting we voted unanimously and passed a resolution supporting Senator Reid and Senator Heller’s federal legislation to help save sage-grouse. We strongly support this proactive approach and know it is the right way to address the sage-grouse issue.
This is a Nevada solution to a Nevada problem. It coordinates the efforts of state and federal agencies, including Governor Sandoval's Sagebrush Ecosystem Council. It also includes local voices on the ground that would see any changes firsthand. The Reid-Heller plan provides Nevada industries the certainty they need to plan for tomorrow, regardless of the ultimate decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Reid-Heller plan has three primary components. First, it permanently protects important sage-grouse habitat. This addresses what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pointed to as the greatest threat to the bird: the lack of regulatory certainty regarding habitat protection. Second, it designates and identifies a funding source to implement essential habitat restoration. Third, it provides for economic certainty for Nevada industries dependent on public lands.
Nevadans value self-determination, and we prefer that problems be solved on the ground by the people who know them best. The plan by Senators Reid and Heller might be passed in Washington, D.C., but it was written by and for the people of the state of Nevada. It’s a common sense solution that protects Nevada’s interests.
Washoe County Commission Chairman David Humke, District 2
Washoe County Commissioner Kitty Jung, District 3
For more information about sage-grouse and its possible listing as an endangered species, view this video from the New York Times.