Gunnison home owners recently turned out for a public information session on October 7 at Western Colorado State University regarding the Gunnison Sage-Grouse population. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recently drafted an environmental assessment regarding a proposal to designate 1.7 million acres of habitat in the southwestern part of the state and parts of southeastern Utah. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has reopened the public comment period until October 19, 2013 concerning listing the Sage-Grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Mountain-Prairie Regional Director Noreen Walsh with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said: “Thanks to collaborative conservation efforts, the largest Gunnison sage-grouse population has remained relatively stable over the past 12 years. However, work needs to continue to stabilize the other remaining populations and to address threats throughout the bird’s range, particularly habitat fragmentation.”
For Gunnison area residents, the Sage-Grouse population has far-reaching implications, including livestock grazing, water management, residential and related development, renewable energy development, transportation, recreation and more. Those areas that house habitat essential to the conservation of the Sage-Grouse will be included in the final designation. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will review an environmental assessment to determine if critical habitat will be designated or if further analysis is required.
Around the Gunnison valley, private land owners and public lands are working on voluntary conservation agreements to assist the Sage-Grouse in thriving once again.
The Sage-Grouse has long been an inhabitant of Gunnison County, but only about 5,000 breeding Gunnison Sage-Grouse remain. The species, which once encompassed, northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico, Utah and Colorado, only inhabits about 7 percent of their former range. ESA protection was proposed on January 11, 2013 when officials determined that there were ongoing threats to their survival.
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