Wyoming Wildlife Groups Seek to Stop Captive Sage Grouse Bill

Wyoming Wildlife Groups Seek to Stop Captive Sage Grouse Bill

Written by on February 21, 2022

More wildlife advocates are voicing their disapproval of Senate File 61, which would extend the effort to collect sage grouse eggs and raise birds in captivity.

The 66th Wyoming Legislature continues with its 2022 Budget Session. This is the time when the Wyoming Senate and House discuss several non-budget bills and decide which will advance to a floor vote.

Senate File 61 would remove the expiration date for “certifications for greater sage grouse game bird farms.” If passed, the bill would allow commercial operations – like Diamond Wings Upland Game Birds in Powell – to continue collecting sage grouse eggs, hatching them, and attempt to build a breeding population in captivity.

However, this bill is attracting the ire of wildlife advocacy groups, who say captive sage grouse breeding is a failed effort that is dangerous for conservation in Wyoming.

In a Feb. 14 statement, the Wyoming Wildlife Federation declared their opposition to the bill.

The W.W.F.’s legal team released a statement last week. Diamond Upland Game Birds is specifically called out for their successful hatching of sage grouse eggs last year.

“While the venture has successfully hatched chicks, any upland hunter can tell you that hatching chicks and pen-raising birds is a far cry from producing birds that can survive in the wild. This venture has had the time they were allotted in the original bill to prove that Sage-grouse farming is viable, and they have not accomplished this.”

Now, the National Wildlife Federation has released a statement declaring their own opposition to Senate File 61, saying it’s “a threat to wildlife and sporting traditions.”

“Gathering wild eggs to raise sage grouse in captivity for private financial gain cuts against decisions Wyoming leaders made long ago to prevent the privatization of Wyoming’s native wildlife. Further, releasing captive-bred birds into the wild can increase the risk of spreading disease and can put additional stresses on wild populations,” said David Willms, senior director of Western wildlife and conservation at the National Wildlife Federation. “In short, this bill is bad for sage grouse and runs counter to Wyoming values that our wildlife belongs to everyone.”

Both the W.W.F. and the N.W.F. Outdoors encourage individuals to reach out to their legislators to tell them to vote “No” on Senate File 61.

“SF 61 flies in the face of years worth of work that Wyoming stakeholders have done to ensure the greater sage grouse are not listed under the endangered species act. This bill allows for the continued collection of 250 wild eggs annually for the benefit of one private captive breeding program that, at its best, has had minimal success. It also introduces significant risks like diseases and disturbance to wild populations,” said Jess Johnson, government affairs director for the Wyoming Wildlife Federation. “The work to keep the sage grouse from being listed will not be solved by a game farm, or private profit of a public resource, but by the significant work done on the ground by Wyoming stakeholders.”

As of Monday, February 21, Senate File 61 has been introduced and referred to the Senate Committee of Travel, Recreation, Wildlife, and Cultural Resources.

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