The Gunnison Sage Grouse of Colorado and Utah will not be listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced April 12. FWS also says it will remove the species from the candidate list.
Mitch King, director of FWS's Mountain-Prairie Region, explains in a statement that the decision was based on the best available scientific and commercial information, including a recent population trend study. "Finding no evidence of substantial threats, the Service has determined the Gunnison Sage Grouse does not need the protection of the ESA," says King.
The decision points to success by ranchers and landowners who have worked to promote conservation of the Gunnison Sage Grouse and its rangeland habitat.
Rancher Tim Lehman of Powderhorn, Colo., in the Gunnison Basin says, "We organized a group in my county and took it upon ourselves to do on-the-ground habitat improvements."
FWS recognizes the contribution of landowners such as Lehman and his neighbors, saying, "these efforts represent important conservation actions that will help ensure the long-term conservation of Gunnison Sage Grouse."
The Gunnison Basin is the largest portion of the species' habitat, and 31% of the land in this area is privately owned. Ranchers and landowners have cooperated with federal agencies and agreed to conserve rangeland habitat.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Public Lands Council applaud the efforts of ranchers and landowners to conserve habitat for wildlife and resource needs. These are the steps that will conserve the greatest number of species over time.
"Our producer-members have made a greater commitment to conservation efforts, but we see better results when we participate voluntarily than if we have government mandates forced on producers," says Jeff Eisenberg, PLC executive director and NCBA director of federal lands.
In January 2005, FWS announced that the Greater Sage Grouse does not warrant protection under the ESA. This decision was based on the success of local conservation partnerships in ranching communities.