The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking public comment on a proposal to add sage grouse and sharp-tailed grouse to its list of threatened species.
The review period will continue through Jan. 23 on draft reports that outline the decline of the two species and recommend changing their status from candidates for protective status to threatened species.
Biological surveys show both bird populations have declined dramatically as their native Eastern Washington habitat has diminished.
Sage grouse, historically found in 16 counties, number fewer than 1,000 birds residing in Douglas, Grant, Yakima and Kittitas counties. Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, the rarest of six North American subspecies of sharptails, once were plentiful in Eastern Washington. However, their numbers have been reduced to less than 1,000 birds in scattered pockets of Douglas, Lincoln and Okanogan counties.
The declines, according to Fish and Wildlife authorities, have been primarily caused by the loss of native shrub steppe and meadow steppe habitat to agricultural conversion, sagebrush removal, intensive grazing and removal of streamside vegetation.
Copies of the species status reports are available at public libraries, WDFW headquarters in Olympia and WDFW regional offices. Written comments may be mailed to Harriet Allen, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.
The WDFW maintains a list of threatened, endangered and sensitive state species separate from the list maintained by the federal government. Presently, there are 23 endangered, nine threatened and two sensitive species on the state list. Threatened species are those considered likely to become endangered unless preventative steps are taken.
Illegally stocked walleye have been discovered in an 80-acre farm pond near Cascade, a finding that could have a far-reaching impact on Idaho fishing.
“The pond eventually drains into the Snake River, making the presence of walleye particularly disturbing,” said Fish and Game Department fish manager Don Anderson. The fish were not stocked by the landowner.
Because they are efficient predators and prolific spawners, if walleye find their way into the Snake River, it could have a severe impact on fish in Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon reservoirs.
All support strong populations of smallmouth bass, crappie, catfish, perch and trout. “If walleye became established in these reservoirs, existing game fish would be in peril,” Anderson said. “Walleye might also become established further downriver and impact our endangered salmon and steelhead, species that are already struggling for survival.”
Walleye are a high-maintenance species, requiring productive water and prolific prey species to survive. Most Idaho waters lack these qualities and thus cannot support adequate walleye populations to provide good walleye fishing.
The walleye were removed last week by fish and game biologists at a cost of about $12,000.
Illegal stocking and spending money to correct the problems are not new to the area. Just five miles away at Horsethief Reservoir, yellow perch have been illegally stocked three times in the last 15 years.
Though stocking fish without a permit has been a violation of state law, the problem has persisted. In an effort to discourage the activity, the last Legislature directed the Fish and Game Department to pursue costs up to $10,000 associated with correcting the damage caused by an unlawful fish release.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: SPEAKING OF FISH Mitch Sanchotena, executive director of Idaho Steelhead & Salmon Unlimited, is coming to Spokane to sort through endangered species listings and other recent developments to help anglers plan for the future of fishing in the Snake River system. Sanchotena, who has guided for 30 years, will speak at the Trout Unlimited meeting, which begins with a 6 p.m. meal at the Shack Restaurant at Third Avenue and Adams on Nov. 5. Info: David James, 324-8047.