Monday, March 19, 2012

BLM to submit sage-grouse protection plan to avoid federal listing

Squat birds with rich, brown-hued plumage, Gunnison and greater sage-grouse are in danger of extinction. According to Bureau of Land Management statistics, the sage-grouse population has fallen 30 percent since 1985, and local environmental advocates Sheep Mountain Alliance estimate that it has plummeted nearly 90 percent since the beginning of the 20th century. Currently, the Gunnison sage-grouse is likely to be listed on the Endangered Species Act register, while the BLM is working to craft a habitat management plan aimed at keeping the greater sage-grouse off of the list. A working group was formed several years ago to find a way to halt the sage-grouse’s numbers from diminishing further, with participants including government agencies, environmental working groups and even energy development companies such as Encana Corporation. A few landowners, ranchers and industry representatives also got involved, mainly because a listing under the Endangered Species Act would put severe limitations on any activity deemed to impact the grouse’s habitat. As far as southwest Colorado is concerned, there are two major populations of sage-grouse, the greater and the Gunnison. Gunnison sage-grouse are grouped in southwest Colorado and southeast Utah, with greater sage-grouse spread across the rest of the American West. Part of the problem, said Jennifer Thurston, Sheep Mountain Alliance’s project coordinator, is that the sage-grouse’s habitat is the most threatened in North America...more

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