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Bill calls for rules and regs on sage grouse farms

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Cheyenne – A bill regarding the production of sage grouse in captivity that was before the Wyoming Senate mid-February would require the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to write rules and regulations on the practice by August 2009.
    Following the formation of the rules they would be submitted to the Travel, Recreation and Wildlife Committee and from there move on to the Wyoming Legislature in 2010.
    “According to this bill, the Game and Fish would be required to come out with rules as best they can write them by August 2009, and submit them to TRW,” says bill sponsor Kermit Brown (R-Laramie). “Then if the 2010 Legislature doesn’t pass anything, it’s stuck right there.”
    On Sept. 11, 2008 the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission decided to give the regulations further consideration and bring them back at a later date. The Commission passed a motion to not pass Chapter 60 as written, and to not develop rules until credible science and further studies can be collected.
    In the September meeting legal council for the Commission said because Chapter 60 was a footnote to a budget and not a state statute the Commission was not mandated to pass the regulations. Wyoming State Senator Jennings argued that the intention of the budget footnote was to have regulations passed.
    Brown says this year he wrote HB48 to relieve the pressure on the schedule on which the permits would be issued – a date set at April 2010 – and to put a timeline on WGFD regulations.
    “The Legislature now has next session to change the law, and this bill says that, instead of the default April 2010, nobody will receive a permit until enabling legislation is passed,” says Brown. If no legislation passes that’s all the farther raising sage grouse in captivity would go.
    Brown says he thinks all parties involved are happy with the bill. “In 2008 Senator Jennings included this as a budget footnote, and the public never had an opportunity to comment and I don’t think he anticipated how much conflict there was going to be, but the wildlife biologists are really worried about raising sage grouse in captivity,” he says, noting disease and genetic mutations that may occur if sage grouse are raised in close proximity to other game farm birds. “The other concern is where they’d get their seedstock – they’d have to molest naturally reproducing sage chickens.”
    Brown says those are three big areas that need to be addressed before permits can be issued. “Sage grouse are a primal bird and they don’t have a well developed immunology and we know that West Nile cuts them down like a hot knife through butter,” he says of another concern.
    Brown says this bill is a modification of Senator Jennings’ budget footnote, and that he expects Jennings to carry the bill on the Senate floor.
    “I think we all agree on this, and we need to have a contingency plan for how we would raise sage grouse in captivity, and what we’d do if they really got in trouble,” he says.
    Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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