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Director's Corner

Meet Service Director Dan Ashe.

Getting It Right for the Gunnison Sage-Grouse and Lesser Prairie-Chicken

This week I was able to sneak out of Washington to Gunnison, Colorado, to tour the Gunnison Sage-Grouse Habitat, lunch with the Gunnison Basin Strategic Committee and meet with the County Coalition for the Gunnison Sage-Grouse, an organization of the 11 counties within the range of Gunnison Sage-Grouse. 

gunison sage-grouse
Gunnison sage-grouse. Credit: © Mike Danzenberger.

I got a chance to see some valuable landscape-level conservation to benefit the Gunnison sage-grouse, a bird we have proposed to list under the Endangered Species Act. About 5,000 breeding gunnisons remain in and around the Gunnison Basin in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. At one time their range included northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico. 

Comment on the the proposed endangered status for Gunnison sage-grouse
Comment on the proposed designation of critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse

To conserve the species, private landowners, federal, state and local agencies, and other partners have developed conservation agreements and implemented them on public, private and state lands across portions of the species’ range.

Stakeholders have been working hard over the last several months to develop conservation efforts for sage-grouse, and we all have the shared goal of conservation of Gunnison sage-grouse and the healthy sagebrush ecosystem on which they depend.

We were going to make a final determination on whether to list the Gunnison by September 30 of this year. But to get the best information available, we extended the timeline to make a final determination on the Gunnison sage-grouse and reopened the comment period. The reopened public comment period will end on September 3, and the new deadline for the final determination is March 31, 2014. 

This extension will also allow for the completion of more landscape-level conservation, and we will be sure to consider those efforts as well.

lesser prairie chicken
Lesser prairie-chicken. Credit: USFWS

Earlier this month, we made a similar extension for our decision on whether to add the lesser prairie-chicken to the Endangered Species list.

This extension will bring us additional information, which will help ongoing landscape-level conservation efforts for the lesser prairie-chicken, which will help us make our final determination. We will make that final determination no later than March 30, 2014.

With the lesser prairie-chicken and the Gunnison sage-grouse, I am confident that the reopened comment periods will ensure that we get these important decisions correct. 


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