ON THE HORIZON: December 2017, Issue 3

Posted by WAFWA on December 1, 2017
More than 20 years ago, directors of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) took the first steps to establish a sagebrush ecosystem initiative. They approved a Memorandum of Understanding to provide guidance for conservation and management of sage-grouse, sagebrush and the shrub-steppe habitats upon which the species depends. While the conservation objective has always been the entire sagebrush ecosystem, the focus for the last two decades has been on the sage-grouse. Those conservation efforts led to the Sept. 2015 announcement that the bird would not be listed.

In early 2016, WAFWA leadership approved the next generation of a Comprehensive Sagebrush Conservation Strategy, which will be a voluntary and collaborative effort. Together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management, WAFWA has begun to assemble a diverse group of stakeholders to guide the development of the strategy.

This fall, WAFWA convened a workshop of scientists, managers, and communication professionals to begin building a framework to guide the development of the strategy. The next steps in the process will include frequent briefings for leadership and participants on the approach and progress, expanding the collaborative to include human dimensions, economic experts, and the drafting and vetting of strategy elements.  WAFWA and its partners will have the strategy completed by September 30, 2018.
WAFWA recently hosted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) staff for a tour of conservation projects in Kansas that are benefiting lesser prairie-chickens on private property and on land purchased to benefit the bird. USFWS had the opportunity to meet with landowners and managers and observe the positive impact of various management practices on habitat quality. Highlights of the tour included lesser prairie-chickens flying across a project site along with pronghorn and other Great Plains wildlife. 

“Hats off to the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies for coordinating a great tour of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan mitigation program properties in Kansas,” said USFWS Biologist Chris O’Meilia. “Along with other conservation partner efforts, the WAFWA projects exhibit great potential. At the site level, it was obvious, and ranchers acknowledged, that the practices being implemented will also improve range health, livestock production, water resources and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire events.”The Western Native Trout Initiative and the Desert Fish Habitat Partnership are proud to present “Blueheads and Bonnevilles”, a short film about the work being done to conserve the native bluehead sucker and Bonneville cutthroat trout in the Weber River in Utah.The film was produced to celebrate the fish and their habitat, the strong partnership that has developed for the Weber River, and the 10th anniversary of the National Fish Habitat Partnership.WATCH THE FILM