State conservation officials are holding public hearings in greater sage grouse habitat this week to listen to the concerns and comments of private landowners.
After the U.S. Department of Interior announced in September it wouldn’t put the sage grouse on the Endangered Species List, protection of the bird fell largely to state land managers.
And because about 60 percent of sage grouse habitat in Montana is on private land, state officials need cooperation from landowners.
Chelcie Cargill works for the Montana Farm Bureau Federation. Her organization contributed language for the legislation that created the Montana Sage Grouse Oversight Team.
Members of that team will attend the public comment in Malta on Wednesday.
"What’s a little bit new and different about this program is that it is going to be a state based program run through state government rather than handed down federal."
One concern Cargill is seeing among landowners is about inconsistent habitat regulations between private land and BLM land within the state.
Cargill says BLM is unlikely to change its regulations to match Montana’s until the state’s new program has a proven track record.
She says landowners in sage grouse habitat are generally knowledgeable about the state's upcoming plans to protect the bird, but encourages anyone with questions about the plan to attend the meetings this week.
The Montana Sage Grouse Oversight Team will host three public hearings on the proposed rule next month. The public can submit comments orally or in writing at the hearings, set for the following dates and locations:
- January 6, 2016, 3 p.m., Malta, MT, First State Bank, 1 South 1st Street East.
- January 7, 2016, 2 p.m., Roundup, MT, Ambulance Barn, 704 1st Street East.
- January 11, 2016, 6:30 p.m., Dillon, MT, Bureau of Land Management office, 1005 Selway Drive.
Those unable to attend a hearing may submit written comment electronically through the online comment form or by postal mail to:
Carolyn Sime, Sage Grouse Resource Program Manager,
MT Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation,
PO Box 201601,
Helena, MT 59620-1601.