Lawsuit postpones USDA sage grouse study


Mar 11, 2001
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Sage Grouse study halted


Idaho State Journal

POCATELLO — A study exploring how predators affect sage grouse populations was postponed for a year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture after four conservation groups filed a lawsuit alleging that the study's aim was to remove foxes, badgers, coyotes and ravens.

"This is not a scientific proposal," said Jon Marvel, executive director of the Western Watersheds Project. "It's a predator-killing program, with a veneer of science.

"The key for wildlife survival is habitat. If you have good sage grouse habitat, you have flourishing populations of sage grouse."

Other groups banding together with the Western Watersheds Project included the Washington, D.C.-based Defenders of Wildlife, Idaho Conservation League and the Committee for Idaho's High Desert.

"We are specifically opposed to the killing of predators for studying sage grouse or another species of wildlife," said Mike Leahy, natural resource counsel for Defenders of Wildlife. "We question the need for the research and the justification behind it."

The study was to be carried out by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, with the help of other government agencies, would have targeted southern Idaho over the next five years.

Three different regions were picked, with the regions divided into six separate study sites.

They included southwest Idaho in the Cow Creek and Sheep Creek drainages in Owyhee county; south central Idaho in the Shoshone Basin and Brown's Bench areas of Twin Falls County, and southeast Idaho in the Little Lost River drainage in Butte County and Birch Creek drainage in Clark and Lemhi counties.

For two years (2002-2003) there would be three predator removal sites, one in each of the three sections of the general study areas. The other sites would have no predator removal and would serve as control areas.

In 2004 there would be no predator removal in any of the areas.

Predators would be removed again, between 2005-2006, in the three areas not having predators removed in the first two years of the study, with the other three areas serving as the control areas.

The population of birds would be studied and followed with the help of radio tracking collars to gather the data.

The main goals of the study include: evaluate the effect of predator control on sage grouse nest success; sage grouse survival; effects on breeding ground population; document cause-specific mortality of sage grouse eggs, juveniles and adults; and document the relative abundance and species composition of predators in different study sites.

For the past several years the Department of Fish and Game has radio tracked sage grouse to help understand the recent decline in the population.

"It will delay us one year," said Daryl Meints, Fish and Game biologist. "We are going to continue on with our research, just without the predator removal portion of the study."

Kelton Hatch covers the outdoors for the Journal. He can be contacted at 239-3132 or e-mail


Well-known member
Sep 5, 2001
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Don't worry about the study... just tell us where they would have done it and make sure the forest service gates are unlocked.  Sometimes people make things much harder than they need to be.

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