Service Announces Public Hearings for the Gunnison Sage-Grouse
For Immediate Release
November 1, 2013
Public comment period reopened until December 2, 2013
DENVER—The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today the scheduling of three public information sessions and public hearings on proposals to protect the Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to designate 1.7 million acres of critical habitat for the species in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. The Service is reopening until December 2, 2013, the public comment period on these proposals, in order to provide the public an additional opportunity to provide feedback.
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.
“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. “These public hearings provide an additional opportunity for us to hear from the public about the proposed listing and critical habitat designation. We welcome additional information from the public not only at the hearings, but through the comment process open until December 2nd. ”
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. Public hearings on these proposed rules were previously planned for October 7 and 8, 2013, but had to be rescheduled due to a lapse in Federal government appropriations.