Guv to BLM: Work with state on grouse

The Bureau of Land Management should work with Colorado to avoid having another federal agency list the greater sage-grouse as endangered, Gov. John Hickenlooper said.

Hickenlooper urged the BLM to pursue efforts aimed at saving the bird and that “safeguards the economic engine of northwestern Colorado.”

Colorado has spent more than $40 million to save the greater sage grouse and wildlife managers have set aside more than 74,000 acres of habitat for the bird primarily through conservation easements, Hickenlooper said in a letter to the BLM.

Communities in northwest Colorado, meanwhile, “rely on access and productivity associated with public lands for their livelihood” Hickenlooper wrote. “With that in mind, any plan that the BLM ultimately promotes must accurately assess the socio-economic values that link people to the land in that area.”

Hickenlooper came under fire last year from county commissioners and others in northwest Colorado who complained that he was doing too little to shield them from the possible consequences of managing lands to preserve the bird.

Hickenlooper wrote the federal agency in support of a state-centered approach to preserving the bird and met with the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, offering assurances that he wanted the federal agency to work with the state and local governments.

Hickenlooper’s letter “carries a lot of leverage,” said Scott McInnis, a former congressman and now executive director of the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado.

The BLM is to decide by Sept. 30 how to manage its lands. It is aiming to do so in such a way as to persuade the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a sister agency within the Interior Department, not to list the greater sage grouse as endangered.

The Fish and Wildlife Service in 2008 said there were 22,600 greater sage grouse occupying some 4 million acres of habitat in Colorado.

Much of that habitat overlies some of the nation’s energy storehouse of coal and natural gas and those resources, along with agriculture, underpin many local economies in northwest Colorado.


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