The Board of County Commissioners has submitted comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that detail negative economic impacts to local agriculture that would result from an endangered species (ES) listing for the Gunnison sage grouse.
The county's comments are specifically aimed at impacts to grazing and the local ag-based economy that would result from a "critical habitat" designation on over 7 million acres of public and private land rangewide if "the bird" is listed as endangered by federal authorities.
The county had submitted a first round of comments on the proposed ES listing for the bird. Those comments also focused on economic impacts to communities, and also on administrative problems with the fed's listing proposal.
The USFWS has scheduled next March for a final determination on the bird's proposed ES listing, which would have significant economic impact for local communities, the commissioners commented.
"The (government's) Environmental Assessment understates the economic effects of the critical habitat designation," begins the commissioners' analysis.
The analysis goes on to show the following impacts to local ag. They are negative impacts which the county sees as understated and under-valued in the USFWS listing proposal:
• Required "consultations" among various federal agencies will delay NRCS (on-farm improvement) programs and reduce enrollments.
• The dollar figure for costs of additional management and consultation on affected lands is not stated in the government's economic analysis.
• The government's assertion that livestock grazing will not be significantly impacted by an ES listing for the bird is wrong. "Potential reductions on 107 grazing allotments out of a possible 310 (over one-third) are significant," the BoCC states. If the bird's ES listing goes into effect, ongoing, costly litigation is a likely result.
• The county's concern is real because allowed animal unit months have been cut in other ES-impacted grazing areas.
• Even more grazing allotments will be impacted by the critical habitat designation, which expands federal endangered species regulation to lands well beyond those actually occupied by the Gunnison sage grouse.
• An ES listing for the bird would have direct impact on ag in Delta and Montrose counties. That impact will affect $52 million in direct sales, not including the economic multiplier of those sales dollars.
• The government's projection of jobs to be lost by an ES listing is understated. It neglects to include ranch owners and their families, and doesn't evaluate the personal economic impact from losing a business.
• The study's stated price of pasture land at $640 per acre is "grossly low," the commissioners state. A more accurate estimate of prices in the area of the Crawford Gunnison sage grouse population is $1,200 to $1,700 per acre, and is a price which can be documented.
• Local government and private conservation efforts on behalf of the Gunnison sage grouse rangewide total an estimated $30 million over the past two decades. These efforts, of which Delta County and private landowners here have been contributors, could end if an ES listing is issued, critical habitat designated, and federal controls imposed.
• "The proposed (USFWS) listing rule ignores (over 90,000) private acres rangewide that are already covered by private conservation easements to protect the bird's habitat." Delta County officials have noted that nearly 100 percent of the bird's habitat here is presently covered by conservation easement processes. The bird's Crawford population is now increasing from these efforts, say Montrose County officials.blog comments powered by Disqus