Brett Prettyman – The Salt Lake Tribune
The Gunnison sage grouse will be listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday.
The listing was a downgrade from an earlier agency recommendation — and an acknowledgement of work by Native American tribes, private land owners and state wildlife officials in Colorado and Utah to cut threats to the bird in an effort to avoid an endangered listing.
“Efforts by Utah and Colorado, private landowners and tribes have reduced the threats to the bird,” said wildlife service director Dan Ashe. “These investments and protections that have been put in place will pay enormous dividends in the future.”
Wednesday’s announcement left conservationists and state wildlife managers disappointed, but for different reasons. Utah wildlife officials wanted no federal protection and the wildlife conservation groups wanted an endangered listing.
The listing comes with an option for a special rule that allows federal officials to relax some ESA restrictions to allow ranchers, farmers and landowners in Colorado and Utah committed to grouse conservation to continue their practices without new restrictions.
Gunnison sage grouse were recognized as a separate species from Greater sage grouse in 2000 and were soon after designated as a candidate for listing under the ESA. (…)