Hickenlooper: Bird listing ominous

A listing of the prairie chicken as threatened bodes ill for efforts on the West Slope to forestall similar listings for the Gunnison and greater sage-grouse, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Friday.

On the other hand, Hickenlooper told the Club 20 board of directors on Friday, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell seemed to have been influenced by the cooperation she saw in Moffat County when she earlier this year visited a ranch managed to preserve the greater sage-grouse.

“She walked away very impressed by what we are doing with the sage-grouse,” Hickenlooper said to an audience that has said listing the grouse species as threatened or endangered could harm local economies as well as ultimately boomerang on efforts to preserve the bird.

Hickenlooper spoke in the Colorado Mesa University Center.

Jewell, who closed a town hall meeting in Craig to the press, was trying to encourage debate by doing so, Hickenlooper said.

“She in no way was trying to close things off,” he said. “She wasn’t trying to be evil or anything.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency of the Interior Department that Jewell heads, is considering the status of both birds.

The Gunnison variety, the smaller of the two birds, is further along in the process and has been the subject for decades of cooperative conservation efforts in 11 counties that involve local governments, landowners and others.

That effort might keep the Gunnison sage-grouse from being listed, he said.

If not, the state would file an amicus brief in any court challenge to a listing, Hickenlooper said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday listed the prairie chicken as threatened, but there had been no cooperative effort to help that bird as there has been with preserving the grouse, Hickenlooper said.

The spring meeting of Club 20 continues today in the university center.


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