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03/11/2010

Sage Grouse Listed as "Candidate" Endangered Species

Late last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally announced its decision regarding the potential listing of the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.  The finding was "warranted but precluded" meaning that the bird is in need of protection but will not be listed yet, but rather put on a candidate list.  As such, states will be in charge of managing the bird.

Sagegrouse

 Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Sage grouse once roamed much of the West but the species has been in steep decline due to habitat loss, specifically the plains environment it requires to mate.  The gravest threat the bird currently faces, and the one that makes any decision listing it 'endangered' extremely controversial, is the oil and gas industry.  During the course of the last decade, oil and gas development has rampantly spread across the West, often coming into conflict with the grouse's habitat.

The "warranted but precluded" finding is an important first step toward protecting the bird and the open spaces it needs, but it will still require much work and proper management if the grouse is to recover.  The Department of the Interior has stated their commitment to expand efforts with state, local, private, and tribal partners to map lands that are vital habitat for the bird.  We will be watching to ensure that those efforts are successful and that management activities are properly balanced.

Read the Sierra Club's press release here.

Read the Fish and Wildlife's press release here.

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