Saturday, January 12, 2013

Sage grouse protection plan would set aside 1.7 million acres in West

Federal biologists have found that Gunnison sage grouse are going extinct — victims of road, power-line and housing development in western Colorado. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to protect survivors as endangered species using 1.7 million acres in southwest Colorado and southeast Utah. The chicken-size, ground-nesting birds are prone to flying into barbed-wire fences and are famed for their loud mating dances. A federal notice to be published Friday announces the finding and launches a 60-day period for public comment. If federal authorities finalize the grouse's status as endangered, any designation of habitat for saving grouse would include an analysis of potential economic harm. When developers degrade the sagebrush habitat grouse need, grouse stop reproducing. "They don't lay eggs," said Patty Gelatt, the Fish and Wildlife Service supervisor in Grand Junction. "If a new power line goes through, often there will be an avian predator who will perch on the power line and eat the grouses' eggs." An estimated 4,612 grouse, fewer than one-tenth of their historical population, have survived in fragments around western Colorado...more

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