Thompson receives award for sage-grouse protection

Jul 29, 2012 By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Fremont County Commission chairman Doug Thompson and other members of Gov. Matt Mead's Sage Grouse Implementation Team have received an award from U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

The team members at their meeting in July in Cheyenne received the federal honor that recognizes their conservation and protection efforts concerning sage grouse in Wyoming.

Thompson said the Partners in Conservation Award from Salazar came about last fall after the U.S. Fish and Wildlide Service nominated the sage grouse team. The team members recently received their individual awards.

The agency nominated the sage grouse team for its work to develop and implement a long-term, science-based cooperative strategy for conservation of the bird, according to Department of the Interior.

Awards went to 17 organizations nationally that have achieved exemplary conservation results with community engagement and partnerships, the department stated.

Thompson said the sage grouse team represents an important effort by Wyoming to protect the bird while preventing a federal endangered species listing that could have detrimental effects on activitiy in the state.

"Wyoming made the decision to be proactive in sage grouse conservation and developed a process that would define core areas for sage grouse conservation and how the activities would be permitted in those areas," he said.

"And it's really important those development criteria needed to consider not only sage grouse conservation but the economic needs of the various counties in the state, so the plan was developed to do that," Thompson said.

The group is continuing to work on developing additional details of the conservation plan.

"Our last three meetings have been fine-tuning that, seeing if it's working properly. One of the big components is I'm chairing a subcommittee on is how it's dealing with grazing," Thompson said.

"The (governor's) executive order didn't adequately address the grazing component and so the decision was made to see if the executive order could be changed or if we could do it to adequately give it guidance and a regulatory mechanism for grazing and various supports for range improvement projects," he said.

The group is also working on how the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's resource management plan revisions in the state address sage grouse conservation.

"That's another level of activity dealing with sage grouse conservation," Thompson said.

"The BLM is attempting to amend the resource management plans in the state, actually nationally," he said. "I was elected by the Wyoming County Commissioners Association to coordinate that effort between Wyoming counties and this amendment process."

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