Insider: Two species of grouse to be put on feds’ list
U.S. Interior Department officials seem to be intent on listing the greater and Gunnison sage grouse as threatened, a move that Gov. John Hickenlooper’s point man said would be disastrous to continued cooperative efforts benefiting the birds.
If Colorado can fend off a listing, however, it might be able to blaze the trail for other states that would be affected by efforts to save the greater sage-grouse, John Swartout told West Slope residents on Thursday.
Swartout and Hickenlooper urged Interior Department officials in Washington, D.C., to avoid listing two species, the greater and Gunnison sage-grouse, as threatened.
“They do intend to list these birds, so our backs are against the wall,” Swartout said.
A designation of “threatened” is one step short of finding the birds to be endangered.
“A listing is the worst thing that could happen to either bird,” Swartout said at the meeting of Club 20, the West Slope lobbying and promotional organization.
Local government officials and the energy industry have warned that listing the greater sage-grouse could damage the regional economy.
Opponents of listing have pointed to efforts among several counties, ranches, businesses and environmental organizations as benefiting both species of grouse.
If the birds are listed, “that cooperation ends and Colorado becomes an adversary” under the Endangered Species Act, Swartout said. “That’s not clear (to officials) in D.C.”
Listing the birds as threatened would undermine some two decades of work and $40 million spent by the state government on conservation easements and other projects aimed at preserving the birds.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering designating both birds as threatened under the terms of a legal settlement with environmental groups.
The Bureau of Land Management, meanwhile, is considering how to manage lands in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North and South Dakota, Oregon, Washington, Utah and Wyoming to avoid a listing of the bird.
Greater sage-grouse now populate about 56 percent of their historical range.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is to decide whether to list the greater sage grouse by September 2015.
The northwest Colorado region of the BLM expects to complete its process by January.
The agency is to decide by March 31 whether to list the Gunnison sage-grouse.