Service Announces Draft Economic Analysis and Draft Environmental Assessment for the Gunnison Sage-Grouse
For Immediate Release
September 18, 2013
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.