Sheep News in Brief
Two Die in Wildlife Services Plane Crash
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says a pilot with the Wildlife Services program and a state wildlife specialist died when their plane crashed in northeastern New Mexico.
The agency says pilot Kelly Hobbs and Shannon “Bubba” Tunnell of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture were the only two aboard the single-engine plane when it went down early in the day on June 5 near Raton.
Officials confirmed that Hobbs and Tunnell were on a mission to curb damage caused by wildlife in Colfax County.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
Hobbs had been a pilot with the federal program since 1992. He had more than 13,500 hours of flight experience and had worked in New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. Tunnell had been a specialist with the state since 2009 and had extensive training in aerial predator management.
Sage Grouse Environmental Impacts Released
The BLM and U.S. Forest Service have finalized their west-wide sage grouse Environmental Impact Statements. These documents will undergo governors’ consistency reviews and be released as “Records of Decision” at the end of July. The EISs are specific to each state and can be found at blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/more/sagegrouse.html.
They will incorporate regulatory measures into the federal land use plans. The Public Lands Council is in the process of reviewing the final EISs, along with each state.
According to the agencies, the EISs focus on “conserving Priority Habitat areas” with measures to “minimize or avoid habitat disturbance.” Specific areas have also been identified as Sagebrush Focal Areas. These focal areas were tacked on by the federal agencies after the draft EISs had been released, therefore leaving stakeholders no option for comment or input. PLC is concerned that this added layer of “prioritization” will make new regulations more damaging.
Already, PLC has been made aware of such restrictions as four-mile buffer areas around leks (breeding grounds); complete exclusion of grazing in certain areas for some states; and unreasonable stubble height requirements.