No Endangered Status for Sage-Grouse


The Greater Sage-Grouse

The U.S. fish and Wildlife Service today issued its finding on the potential listing of the Greater Sage Grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service has determined that, based on accumulated scientific data and new peer-reviewed information and analysis, the Greater Sage-Grouse warrants the protection of the Endangered Species Act but that listing the species at this time is precluded by the need to address higher priority species first. The greater sage-grouse will be placed on the “candidate list” for future action.

According to FWS officials, the official listing of the bird is, at this time, precluded by the need to address other listings of higher priority. The “candidate” status of the species will be reviewed on an annual basis and according to officials, may be removed before any listing action can be taken.

By stopping short of listing the bird under the ESA, public lands within the birds habitat will remain open to multiple use activities including grazing, recreation and natural resources development.

The finding does not afford the species protection under the ESA and states will still be responsible for managing the bird’s populations as they see fit. The finding makes note of the fact that Sage Grouse population remains large enough and is spread across a large enough range that the “immediate threat of extinction is low.”

“This development has provided important benefits, but we must find common-sense ways of protecting, restoring, and reconnecting the Western lands that are most important to the species’ survival while responsibly developing much-needed energy resources,” said Interior Secratary Ken Salazar.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Bob Abbey, whose agency manages more greater sage-grouse habitat than any other government agency, said that the BLM will today issue guidance that will expand the use of new science and mapping technologies to improve land-use planning and develop additional measures to conserve sage-grouse habitat while ensuring that energy production, recreational access and other uses of federal lands continue as appropriate.  The BLM guidance also addresses a related species, the Gunnison sage-grouse, which has a more limited range, and which is in the process of being evaluated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether it also warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The guidance, which supplements the BLM’s 2004 National Sage-Grouse Conservation Strategy, identifies management actions necessary at some sites to ensure the environmentally responsible exploration, authorization, leasing and development of energy resources in the priority habitat of greater sage-grouse.

Under the guidance, the BLM will continue to coordinate with State fish and wildlife agencies and their Sage and Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Technical Committee in the development of a range-wide key habitat map. This mapping project, which is not intended to replace individual State fish and wildlife agency core habitat maps, will identify priority habitat for sage-grouse within each of the western states and reflect this across the known range of sage-grouse.

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