Sage-grouse occupy less than 8% of their historic range. To address these declines, the western states and provinces have implemented sage-grouse management plans. These plans identified the need for local working groups (LWGs) to develop and implement conservation plans to address high priority issues. To facilitate LWGs in Utah, the Division of Wildlife Resources entered into a cooperative agreement with Utah State University Extension in 2001 to develop a Utah Community-Based Conservation (CBCP) program. Because sage-grouse occupy diverse landscapes each exhibiting different land ownership patterns, each of the sage-grouse management areas are somewhat unique. Thus, we believe the success of each working group rests on the ability of the LWGs to understand and incorporate this uniqueness of each environment in their plan. Each LWG is beginning to implement experimental management projects funded largely through the 2002 Farm Bill to learn more about what conservation practices will result in the greatest benefits for sage-grouse, other wildlife species, private landowners, and local Utah communities. Although the scientific literature contains good information on sage-grouse ecology, there is limited information on the effects of specific conservation practices that can be directly applied to management. In addition, because land uses are variable across the state, the site-specific management information required to address population declines and socio-economic needs is limited. To address these needs, we have implemented a “we know, we believe, and we feel” process to conservation planning. This process directly involves landowners and local communities in activities to learn more about the systems they are trying to manage while managing them. In this paper, we discuss and compare the success and limitations of this “we know, we believe, and we feel” approach to species conservation.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/terry-messmer/25/