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Artemis and NWF release report highlighting link between mule deer and sage-grouse

Just as mule-deer hunters are getting ready to head into the field for hunting season, members of the sportswomen’s group Artemis are releasing a report to raise awareness that anyone who cares about deer should care about greater sage-grouse and the remarkable effort across the West to save the iconic bird.

Artemis and the National Wildlife Federation, today released the report “Living on Common Ground – Sportswomen speak out to save the mule deer, sage-grouse and sagebrush country.”

Mule deer and sage-grouse have been in decline across much of the West. Sage-grouse used to number in the millions, but now less than a half million remain. A recent study in Pinedale, Wyo., found that mule deer herds have declined by 40 percent in the heavily developed gas fields of the region. The report explores what for sportswomen is impossible to ignore – sagebrush lands throughout the West provide vital habitat for both species and those lands are steadily disappearing.

“Mule deer and sage-grouse are the canaries in the coal mine for sage steppe health,” says Jessi Johnson, Artemis coordinator and Wyoming Wildlife Federation public lands coordinator. “If we fail to listen to the warnings they are giving us with their dwindling numbers, we will lose not only two iconic Western species but a host of dependent flora and fauna and the very essence of what makes living in the West so special.”

Hearing that warning, a diverse group of stakeholders from across the West, including the sporting community, came together to build conservation plans aimed at saving sage-grouse. Completed in 2015, these sage-grouse conservation plans allowed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conclude that the bird didn’t need to be added to the endangered species list. The conservation plans instead represent a balanced approach to management of the bird’s habitat on our nation’s public lands that would also accommodate other careful uses.

However, changes being considered by the Trump administration could now derail implementation of the plans, threatening the fate of sage-grouse and the more than 350 species, including mule deer, which depend on the West’s sagebrush lands. Interior Secretary Zinke seeks to weaken safeguards meant to accommodate responsible development on sagebrush lands while preserving their value as habitat. Instead, the Secretary continues to drift away from conserving healthy habitats, continuing to explore instead unsound schemes relying on population numbers and captive breeding.

“Where will those captive-bred birds find homes,” asks Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s public lands policy director. “The sage-grouse conservation plans are the result of long, hard work of stakeholders across the West who spent years finding common ground and a pathway to the future for both people and wildlife. It would be an ominous blow to sage-grouse and mule deer and all of us who live in the West if we can no longer safeguard the lands where they find food and cover.”

Artemis understands that hunters will be key to ensuring that both the species thrive into the future and is urging support for the sage-grouse conservation plans.

“As an avid hunter of mule deer on public land, I feel it’s of the utmost importance that their breeding and feeding grounds are maintained and protected,” says Artemis co-founder Cindi Baudhuin. “I hope that ‘Living on Common Ground’ will help drive home the important link between mule deer and sage-grouse for hunters.”

Artemis and NWF continue to move forward by reaching out to hunters, local communities, and other wildlife advocates to ensure everyone understands that the future of mule deer and sage- grouse are inextricably linked.

“As hunters, anglers and wildlife conservationists, now is the opportunity to work to ensure these populations exist for future generations,” says Sara Domek, Artemis Co-founder. “Sustaining and enhancing seasonal movement corridors and stay-over habitat of wildlife need to be a priority, and the conservation plans provide tangible measures to protect mule deer and sage-grouse habitat.”

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Artemis is a group of bold sportswomen creating fresh tracks for conservation and an initiative of NWF. Mule deer are a particular species of concern for Artemis. Follow Artemis on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization, uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly changing world. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Like many sportsmen across Colorado, I’m heartened that Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) have reached across party lines to re-introduce the Public Lands Renewable Energy Act. This legislation takes a balanced approach to meet America’s energy needs, bolster clean energy technologies, and protect wildlife which sportsmen depend on by reducing future impacts of clean energy facilities.

A wind farm backdrops this Colorado pheasant hunter. Photo by Lew Carpenter.

A wind farm backdrops this Colorado pheasant hunter. Photo by Lew Carpenter.

As an avid angler and hunter, I know how valuable of our public lands are as a resource for recreation, beauty, and fish and game species. That’s why I support S. 279’s more efficient approach to clean energy development. The bill would set aside royalties from renewable projects to support local economies and mitigate impacts on fish and wildlife resources. By contributing thirty-five percent of the royalties collected to a conservation fund, Colorado sportsmen like me and thousands of others can keep enjoying the resources which make our state so special. State and Counties would receive twenty-five percent each.

“We want our public lands to be great places to fish and hunt,” Keith Curley, Director of Government Affairs for Trout Unlimited, “This bill would help ensure that when wind and solar energy development occurs on public lands, there are resources available to protect and restore habitat and secure public access in the affected areas.”

In addition, S.279 would establish a competitive leasing system, mirroring the system already in place for oil and gas industries, and make it more feasible for smart development projects to take place on federal lands. This more efficient process would be particularly beneficial to us here in Colorado, which has a tremendous potential for wind power on millions of acres of public land suitable for such projects. This will allow us to develop necessary new sources of wind and solar power on suitable public lands and at the same time give back a portion of the royalties to those most affected by the projects – the states and counties, as well as wildlife and the sportsmen who have a stake in the future of these public lands.

Senator Tester hit it dead on when he said, “With some of the best renewable energy development sites located on public lands, it’s vital to expand this industry while protecting the natural resources that make the West famous. He frames the bill as, “A common-sense way to create jobs and provide renewable energy the same opportunities as oil and gas while increasing our energy security.”

I want to thank our congressmen from Montana, Idaho, and across the nation for working together to reintroduce The Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act of 2013. I also am proud to be a part of the extensive network of supports for this bill, which includes the Western Governors Association, the National Association of Counties, conservation groups like The National Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited, and conservationist and sportsmen across the nation. Tom France, Senior Director of Western Wildlife Conservation of the National Wildlife Federation’s Rocky Mountains and Prairies Regional Center called the bill, “A win-win strategy to facilitate needed renewable energy development on suitable public lands.”

I believe we have much to gain for this bill’s directed effort to increase our energy independence, create meaningful jobs, support local and state level economies, and protect our unique wildlife heritage for future generations of Colorado hunters and anglers.

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DENVER – A sportsmen’s coalition applauds the Bureau of Land of Management’s balanced decision on the protection of many vital fish and wildlife habitats, but has concerns about the increased risk to the greater sage-grouse.

The final programmatic environmental impact statement released Friday would make about 800,000 acres available for oil shale and tar sands production in northwest Colorado, southwest Wyoming and northeastern Utah. Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development supports the BLM’s move to require more research before issuing commercial leases on public land and believes it is prudent for companies with existing research parcels to show tangible results before additional land is leased.

While many important habitat areas were protected, some key greater sage-grouse habitats in Wyoming were opened to potential development, which is of concern, the coalition said. The National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnerships are the SFRED coalition’s lead partners.

“We need to understand fully the trade-offs we are making before we seal the deal to commit a thousand square miles of public land to this risky business,’’ said Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife’s public lands policy director. “If we don’t, good air and water quality, fish and wildlife values could be lost forever.’’

The proposal revises a 2008 plan to open about 2 million acres of public lands in the three Rocky Mountain states to oil shale and tar sands development. The BLM took another look at the plan after challenges from several conservation groups.

“Colorado’s Piceance Basin has the region’s richest oil shale deposits and is also the heart of what’s long been called the state’s mule-deer factory,’’ said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. “ The BLM has said oil shale and tar sands development might fragment or destroy wildlife habitat.’’

Northwestern Colorado was home to about 120,000 mule deer in the early 1980s, O’Neill said, but the population had dropped to about 50,000 by 2010.

“Oil and gas drilling has increased substantially in the area and more development is planned,’’ she added. “We don’t know how much more pressure the herds can bear.’’

Hunters and anglers commend the Interior Department for taking a more prudent approach to oil shale and tar sands development, said Ed Arnett, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Center for Responsible Energy Development.

“We support responsible energy development,’’ Arnett added, “but oil shale remains an unproven source of energy and we don’t know how much water or electricity will be need to unlock the oil in the rocks.’’

The region’s public lands are crucial for hunting, fishing and recreation, all sustainable, important parts of the economy, said Brad Powell, energy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project

“The region’s fish and wildlife populations are dependent on the availability of clean, cold water. Our water supplies in the West are too valuable to put at risk until the technology is better developed,” Powell said.

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development is a coalition of more than 500 businesses, organizations and individuals dedicated to conserving irreplaceable habitats so future generations can hunt and fish on public lands. The coalition is led by Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation.

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