Fish and Game is seeking comments on two options for the 2015 sage-grouse season. Option 1 is the same as the season offered in 2014. Option 2 would re-open eastern Owyhee County and western Twin Falls County. This area was closed in 2007 due to wildfire impacts, but sage-grouse populations have recovered and meet the qualification to be hunted at the "Restrictive" level. This includes a seven-day season from September 19 through September 25, and a one-bird daily limit statewide within sage-grouse range, except in designated closed areas.
To view the new proposals and to comment, go to http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/content/public-involvement, or visit a regional Fish and Game office. The comment period has been extended to August 9.
A summary of public comments will be presented to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission at their August 11 meeting in Idaho Falls, when they will consider and set the final seasons.
Recommendations follow the hunting season and bag-limit guidelines as laid out in the state plan. The guidelines compare the current three-year running average of male sage-grouse counted at leks from 1996 through 2000 when Idaho began intensified surveys statewide. Current sage-grouse lek data indicate that many populations could be hunted at the "Restrictive" level. The guidelines also allow the flexibility to consider local issues of concern, such as insufficient data, isolated populations or impacts of wildfire and West Nile virus. To read Idaho's Plan, visit http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/wildlife/sageGrouse.
Sage-grouse are proposed for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act, primarily due to habitat loss from such things as wildfire and invasive plants like cheatgrass. Candidate species are currently under state management and hunting sage-grouse is legal. Sage-grouse experts have determined that carefully regulated hunting is consistent with conservation of the species, and Fish and Game closely monitors sage-grouse annually to ensure hunting will not compromise the population.