Rick Toney, director for District 4, said he does not personally support the Species at Risk Act which has seen an emergency protection order issued for endangered sage grouse.
The SCA reported while it is supportive of the need for the order, it did have concerns regarding the lack of communication, consultation and collaboration with ranchers and stakeholders. Toney echoed the need for collaboration and communication, but does not agree with having a protection order in place at all.
“I think the order is completely wrong,” he stated.
He believes it will cause unnecessary grief for farmers and ranchers who have already proven to be good stewards of the land.
“Ranchers have kept this land in pristine condition and kept the proper habitat as much as they could for the sage grouse,” Toney stated. “They are not the problem at all. The ranchers that have stood the test of time are all environmentalists.”
The order states that between April 1 and May 30 from one-and-a-half hours before sunset to one-and-a-half hours after sunrise no vehicle, machine or facility may be operated that produces a noise greater than 45 decibels within 3.2 kilometres of sage grouse mating sites. But Toney said the sharp-tailed grouse on his pasture land near Gull Lake is not bothered by the oil activity there at all.
“It’s right there beside them and it’s not affecting the sharp-tailed grouse one little bit,” he said. “There’s traffic all the time and they’ve been there for years.”
In Montana, there is a hunting season for the sage grouse, when hunters are allowed two a day and four in their possession.
Toney said Environment Canada and environmentalists need to understand ranchers are not to blame for the bird’s decline. He attributes much of it to the swift fox being reintroduced to the area as well as West Nile virus and other predators.
“Ranchers are taking the brunt of it when the real problems are things that aren’t even in their control at all,” he stated.
Toney is among many producers who have criticized the order. Last month, MP David Anderson issued a statement claiming the legislation was focused on “coercion rather than co-operation.”