[Federal Register: January 24, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 15)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 3648-3649]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Reopening of the 
Comment Period for the Columbian Sharp-Tailed Grouse Status Review

AGENCY:  Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:  Status review; notice of reopening of comment period.


SUMMARY:  We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), pursuant to 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), provides notice 
of the reopening of the comment period for the Columbian sharp-tailed 
grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus columbianus) status review. The 
comment period is reopened to accommodate requests by various federal 
and state wildlife resource agencies for additional time to provide 
input. Reopening of the comment period will also allow further 
opportunity for all interested parties to submit additional information 
and written comments to be considered by the Service for this status 
review (see DATES and ADDRESSES).

DATES:  Written materials from all interested parties must be received 
by March 27, 2000.

ADDRESSES:  Written comments, data, reports, map products, and other 
information concerning this status review should be sent to the Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Upper Columbia River Basin 
Field Office, 11103 East Montgomery Drive, Spokane, Washington 99206.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Chris Warren, at the address listed 
above (telephone 509/891-6839; facsimile 509/891-6748).



    The Columbian sharp-tailed grouse is one of six recognized 
subspecies of sharp-tailed grouse that occur in North America (AOU 
1957). Compared to the other subspecies, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse 
are described as slightly smaller with darker gray plumage. 
Historically, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse range extended westward 
from the continental divide in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado to 
northeastern California and eastern Oregon and Washington; southward to 
northern Nevada and central Utah; and northward through central British 
    Columbian sharp-tailed grouse rely on a variety of native habitats 
within the sagebrush-bunchgrass, meadow-steppe, mountain shrub, and 
riparian zones of the northwestern United States (Giesen and Connelly 
1993). Various upland habitats, with a component of more dense riparian 
or mountain shrub habitat to provide escape cover, are important to the 
subspecies from spring to fall. The availability of suitable wintering 
habitat, containing a dominant component of deciduous trees and shrubs, 
is also thought to be a key element to healthy Columbian sharp-tailed 
grouse populations (Marks and Marks 1987, Giesen and Connelly 1993).
    In 1979, the range wide population estimate for the Columbian 
sharp-tailed grouse was approximately 60,000 to 170,000 individuals, 
with roughly 60 to 80 percent occurring in British Columbia (Miller and 
Graul 1980). Miller and Graul (1980) also estimated that the subspecies 
occupied less than 10 percent of its historic range in Idaho, Montana, 
Utah, and Wyoming, 10 to 50 percent in Colorado and Washington, and 80 
percent or more in British Columbia. The current minimum to maximum 
range wide population estimate for the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse is 
approximately 30,000 to 70,000 individuals, with roughly 60 to 70 
percent occurring in southeastern Idaho. The Columbian sharp-tailed 
grouse has been extirpated from California (circa 1920), Nevada (circa 
1950), and Oregon (circa 1960) (Miller and Graul 1980).
    Declines in the overall abundance of Columbian sharp-tailed grouse 
and the extent of its occupied range have acted to isolate various 
populations of the subspecies. Three relatively large populations of 
Columbian sharp-tailed grouse still exist; one in northwestern Colorado 
to south-central Wyoming, one in southeastern Idaho to northern Utah, 
and one in central British Columbia. To varying degrees, the remaining 
areas occupied by the subspecies are made up of relatively small and 
isolated local populations.
    Much of the historic area used by Columbian sharp-tailed grouse has 
been converted for crop production and affected by other influences 
including rural and suburban development, dam construction, minerals 
exploitation, chaining, herbicide spraying, and fire (Miller and Graul 
1980, Wood 1991, Giesen and Connelly 1993). In addition, grazing 
practices over large portions of Columbian sharp-tailed grouse range 
may negatively impact native habitats (Hart et al. 1950, Miller and 
Graul 1980, Kessler and Bosch 1982, Giesen and Connelly 1993). 
Intensive grazing pressure may be especially detrimental to nesting and 
wintering habitats used by Columbian sharp-tailed grouse populations, 
primarily due to impacts on their cover and food resources.
    Much of the area currently and potentially occupied by Columbian 
sharp-tailed grouse is in private ownership. Presently, large portions 
of these privately owned lands are withdrawn from crop production and 
planted to native and non-native cover under the Federal Conservation 
Reserve Program (CRP) (USDA 1998). CRP lands have become very important 
to Columbian sharp-tailed grouse in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, and 
Washington. A number of CRP contracts are scheduled to expire from 1999 
through the year 2002. The potential net changes that may occur under 
the CRP vary considerably by the counties and states occupied by 
Columbian sharp-tailed grouse. Presently, it is unclear what affects 
these potential changes may have on the subspecies' populations.
    Currently, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse are hunted in Colorado, 
Idaho, and British Columbia. Hunting is not likely to have an additive 
affect over natural mortality for relatively large, stable populations 
of upland birds under managed conditions (Braun et al. 1994). However, 
depending on the status of the hunted population and hunter access 
patterns, some areas may act as population ``sinks'' and be adversely 
impacted by additional mortality. Incidental or illegal take of the 
subspecies may also occur, especially in areas hunted extensively for 
other upland game (Hart et al. 1950, Miller and Graul 1980).
    Reintroduction efforts for Columbian sharp-tailed grouse have taken 
place in Washington, Montana, Oregon, Nevada, and Idaho. Many early 
reintroduction efforts conducted for prairie grouse (including sharp-
tailed grouse) failed to produce self-sustaining populations or to 
increase the size or distribution of augmented populations (Toepfer et 
al. 1990). However, several recent efforts have shown greater potential 
to be effective as the techniques for reintroductions have improved.
    The Service published a notice in the Federal Register on October 
26, 1999, announcing that a range wide status review for the Columbian 

[[Page 3649]]

grouse was being conducted (64 FR 57620). The original comment period 
for this status review closed December 27, 1999. The Service will now 
accept information concerning this status review through March 27, 
2000. The Service will also solicit the opinions of appropriate and 
independent specialists regarding the data, assumptions, and supportive 
information presented for the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse status 
review, per the Interagency Cooperative Policy for Peer Review in 
Endangered Species Act Activities (59 FR 34270).

References Cited

AOU. 1957. American Ornithological Union Check-list of North 
American Birds. The Lord Baltimore Press, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland. 
pp 137-139.
Braun, C.E., K.M. Giesen, R.W. Hoffman, T.E. Remington, and W.D. 
Snyder. 1994. Upland Bird Management Analysis Guide, 1994-1998. Div. 
Report No. 19, Colorado Division of Wildlife. pp 1-39.
Giesen, K.M. and J.W. Connelly. 1993. Guidelines for Management of 
Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Habitats. Wildl. Soc. Bull. 21:325-
Hart, C.M., O.S. Lee, and J.B. Low. 1950. The Sharp-tailed Grouse in 
Utah--Its Life History, Status, and Management. Pub. No. 3, Utah 
State Dept. of Fish and Game.
Kessler, W.B. and R.P. Bosch. 1982. Sharp-tailed Grouse and Range 
Management Practices in Western Rangelands. Pages 133-146 in J.M. 
Peek and P.D. Dalke, eds. Wildlife--Livestock Relationships Symp. 
10th Proc. Univ. of Idaho For., Wildl., and Range Exp. Stn., Moscow, 
Marks, J.S. and V.S. Marks. 1987. Habitat selection by Columbian 
Sharp-tailed Grouse in West-central Idaho. Bureau of Land Management 
Report, Boise, Idaho. 115 pp.
Miller, G.C. and W.D. Graul. 1980. Status of Sharp-tailed Grouse in 
North America. Pages 18-28 in P.A. Bohs and F.L. Knopf, eds., Proc. 
of the Prairie Grouse Symp., Oklahoma State Univ., Stillwater.
Toepfer, J.E., R.L. Eng, and R.K. Anderson. 1990. Translocating 
Prairie Grouse: What Have We Learned? Trans. 55th N.A. Wildl. and 
Nat. Res. Conf. pp 569-579.
USDA. 1998. The Conservation Reserve Program: 16th Signup. January 
29, 1998 Report by the Farm Service Agency. 249 pp.
Wood, M.A. 1991. Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Mitigation 
Implementation Plan for Western Montana. Report by the Montana Dept. 
of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. 24 pp.

    Author: The primary author of this notice is Chris Warren of the 
Upper Columbia River Basin Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 11103 East Montgomery Drive, Spokane, Washington 99206 
(Telephone: 509/891-6839).

    Authority: The authority of this action is the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: January 13, 2000.
Thomas Dwyer,
Acting Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 00-1446 Filed 1-21-00; 8:45 am]
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