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News & Releases
Mountain-Prairie Region

News Release

Service Announces Draft Economic Analysis and Draft Environmental Assessment for the Gunnison Sage-Grouse

For Immediate Release

September 18, 2013


A pair of Gunnison sage-grouses are pictured. Credit: USFWS

Public comment period reopened until October 19, 2013

DENVER – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today the availability of a draft economic analysis and draft environmental assessment on a proposal to designate 1.7 million acres of critical habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. The Service is reopening until October 19, 2013, the public comment period on the proposal to list the species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and designate critical habitat.

The economic analysis estimates the economic impacts of Gunnison sage-grouse conservation efforts associated with livestock grazing, agriculture and water management, mineral and fossil fuel extraction, residential and related development, renewable energy development, recreation, and transportation activities. Only areas that contain habitat essential to the conservation of the species and where the benefits of this habitat outweigh potential economic impacts will be included in the final designation. The Service will use the draft environmental assessment to help decide whether critical habitat will be designated as proposed, if the proposed action requires refinement, or if further analysis is needed through preparation of an environmental impact statement.

“Thanks to collaborative conservation efforts, the largest Gunnison sage-grouse population has remained relatively stable over the past 12 years,” said the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Regional Director Noreen Walsh. “However, work needs to continue to stabilize the other remaining populations and to address threats throughout the bird’s range, particularly habitat fragmentation.”

Gunnison County, Colorado, is committed to conservation of Gunnison sage-grouse and its habitat. Likewise, Federal agencies have completed a candidate conservation agreement in the Gunnison Basin; a number of private landowners are currently enrolled in voluntary conservation agreements; and a portion of private lands are in conservation easements that help conserve Gunnison sage-grouse. Combined, these conservation tools protect, at some level, the majority of occupied habitat in the Gunnison Basin. Perhaps the greatest need and challenge is to expand the suite of conservation efforts completed and underway in the Gunnison Basin to other areas across the species’ range.

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Only about 5,000 breeding Gunnison sage-grouse remain, occupying seven percent of their former range, which once encompassed northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico in addition to Colorado and Utah. As a result of these declines and ongoing threats to survival, the Service on January 11, 2013, proposed ESA protection for the species and proposed the designation of critical habitat essential for the species’ survival and recovery.

Critical habitat is a term defined in the ESA and identifies geographic areas containing features essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and that may require special management considerations or protection. The designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, and has no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or permits.

Comments or information previously submitted on the proposed rules should not be resubmitted. These comments have been incorporated into the public record, and the Service will fully consider them in the preparation of final determinations. 

A public information session and public hearing in Gunnison, Colorado, is scheduled for October 7, 2013, at Western State Colorado University, University Center, 600 N. Adams Street, including an information session from 4-5 p.m., a break and speaker sign-in, and a public hearing from 6-9 p.m. A public information session and public hearing in Monticello, Utah, is scheduled for October 8, 2013, at Monticello High School Auditorium, 164 South 200 West, including an information session from 4-5 p.m., a break and speaker sign-in, and a public hearing from 6-9 p.m.

You may submit written comments by one of the following methods:

(1) Electronically:

Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter the appropriate Docket No: Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2012-0108 for the proposed endangered status for Gunnison sage-grouse; or Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2011-0111 for the proposed designation of critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse. Then, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, check on the Proposed Rules link to locate the proposed rule. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!”

(2) By hard copy:
For the proposed endangered status for Gunnison sage-grouse, submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to:

Public Comments Processing
Attn:  FWS-R6-ES-2012-0108
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222
Arlington, VA 22203 

For the proposed designation of critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse, submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: 

Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R6-ES-2011-0111
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222
Arlington, VA 22203

The Service requests that you send comments only by the methods described above. All comments will be posted on http://www.regulations.gov.

 

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel, and download photos from our Flickr page.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Office of External Affairs

Mountain-Prairie Region

134 Union Blvd

Lakewood, CO 80228

303-236-7905

303-236-3815 FAX

www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/



Contacts

Susan Linner
303-236-4774
susan_linner@fws.gov

Steve Segin
303-236-4578
robert_segin@fws.gov



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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: September 18, 2013
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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