The Obama Administration has decided to formally list the Gunnison sage grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe signed the listing decision on November 12th to meet a deadline from an agreement with WildEarth Guardians following a federal lawsuit challenging the backlog of species awaiting a final listing decision.
Along with the listing, the FWS established 1.4 million acres of critical habitat for the bird, mainly in western Colorado and southeastern Utah. This land is deemed as being critical for the Gunnison’s recovery. Federal agencies must consult with FWS before authorizing any activity that could destroy or adversely modify the land.
The FWS is expected to meet with Colorado officials at some point in the next several weeks to develop a special rule under Section 4(d) of the ESA to all regulatory flexibility for impacting groups such as farmers, ranchers, oil and gas companies, etc… who enroll in approved, voluntary grouse conservation plans.
The Gunnison sage grouse will officially be listed as threatened 30 days after the FWS decision is published in the Federal Register, which is expected before November 21.