Greater Sage-Grouse CCAA Frequently Asked Questions
How long will sage-grouse remain a candidate species?
The sage-grouse will remain a candidate species until it is either removed from candidate status because listing is no longer warranted (e.g., threats are effectively addressed) or when a proposed listing regulation is published.
Why is it important to continue to conserve sage-grouse?
Candidates are reviewed annually to determine if they continue to warrant listing or to reassess their listing priority. For example, if threats are reduced and populations increase or stabilize, the listing priority could change to 11. Ideally, sufficient threats can be removed to eliminate the need for listing in which case sage-grouse would no longer be a candidate. If threats are not addressed or the status of the species declines, a candidate species can move up in priority for a listing proposal. If threats to greater sage-grouse are not addressed, the listing priority would likely jump from an 8 to a 2 due to how listing priorities numbers are determined.
Is the Service working on a statewide CCAA for Greater Sage-grouse?
The short answer is yes; however, that should be clarified to explain how we hope to achieve our goal. The State of Wyoming has elected, in collaboration with the Service and other partners, to work on completing a statewide CCAA for grazing and associated practices, where we will issue individual permits to landowners in a programmatic and expedited manner. The Wyoming Ecological Services Office, in collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), United States Forest Service (USFS), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and the Governor’s Office are currently working on this statewide approach for both a CCAA for private lands, and a concurrent Candidate Conservation Agreement (CCA) for landowners using federal lands.
A programmatic approach makes the most sense for all landowners as it reduces the federal processing time for individual landowners, and allows more landowners to obtain a CCA/CCAA if they chose to pursue one. Our current effort provides this advantage over processing a CCAA for a single landowner or coalition of landowners separately. First, by focusing on grazing and associated activities, we are simplifying the CCAA development process and will be at implementation sooner. Second, the approach underway is being done in collaboration with the BLM and USFS so landowners can have similar benefits for their use of federal grazing land. Third, it will address the land uses and make available the benefits of the CCAA to other landowners across the entire state.
How does this approach differ from Wyoming’s original CCAA proposal?
This approach differs from the State’s original approach in that the Service will not issue a programmatic permit to an entity (e.g., Wyoming Game and Fish) who then signs up property owners. Instead, the Service will issue permits directly to individual landowners whereby the federal process associated with each agreement is shortened and streamlined, and which will allow for “batches” or groups of multiple individual agreements to be processed at once.
Is there a possibility that if the sage-grouse is listed, the listing area may be comprised of regional or multiregional areas versus a range-wide area?
Yes, there is a possibility of a regional or multiregional listing (e.g., in Endangered Species terminology known as a “distinct population segment” or DPS), but that decision would only be made if the data support it.
If the sage-grouse becomes listed, what happens then?
- Management of the GSG will continue to be held by WGFD until the final rule is published. In the interim year, the FWS will ensure we have all the data and that our recommendations remain valid. Federal agencies will treat the bird as a proposed species, and will consult on their authorizing actions.
- The FWS will recommend designating the bird either threatened or endangered, and we will work with agencies on consultation and initiate a recovery plan.
- We will issue a final rule one year post-listing decision, upon which the management of the GSG will be shifted from the WGFD to the FWS.
What will be required of extractive industries in order to continue to operate in sage-grouse habitat?
If the GSG is listed, on federally managed lands, all actions that could impact GSG will be reviewed under section 7 of the ESA. A Biological Opinion will be prepared, outlining the terms and conditions of the action – unless a CCA has already been prepared prior to listing, and the actions outlined by the CCA have been approved by the FWS.
On private lands, the only protection tool extractive industries have to operate is to develop an Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that will provide you with a permit to incidentally take a listed species.
If the sage-grouse is listed, what will be the objective(s) for recovery of the species?
A recovery plan has not been written, nor will it be, unless the bird is listed.
If the sage-grouse is not listed, will the stipulations proposed by the State of Wyoming be accepted as is?
The FWS will not dictate to the State any additional stipulations. The bird will remain under management of the State. We support the current management, especially the core area concept.
If the sage-grouse is not listed will there be any consideration for mitigating factors?
The FWS supports the core area concept as initiated by WGFD. This is a mitigation factor.
If the bird is listed, how does the FWS plan on coordinating with WGFD and will they have similar avoidance criteria?
We will coordinate with the WGFD if the bird is listed. It is premature to offer what our avoidance criteria will be.
What is the amount of time the FWS believes it would take to complete a Programmatic or Umbrella Candidate Conservation Agreement for the Sage Grouse in Wyoming?
If we can focus on a single industry or impact, we believe we can have a document in place within 2 years.