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Species Description: The Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) is a species of sage-grouse found south of the Colorado River in Colorado and Utah. They are about one-third smaller than the greater sage-grouse, and males have more distinct, white barring on their tail feathers, longer and more dense filoplumes on their necks. Female Gunnison and greater sage-grouse have nearly the same plumage, but the female Gunnison is again about one-third smaller than the greater sage-grouse. Male Gunnison sage-grouse conduct an elaborate display when trying to attract females on breeding grounds, or leks in the spring. They will strut, flap their wings against their white pouches and utter a distinct series of sounds by vocalizing and popping two air sacs within their pouches. Nesting begins in mid-April and continues into July.
Location: Historically, Gunnison sage-grouse were found in the southwestern portion of Colorado, southeastern Utah, northeastern Arizona, and northwestern New Mexico. Approximately 5000 breeding Gunnison sage-grouse occur among 7 separate populations in SW Colorado and SE Utah. The largest population, about 4,000 birds, inhabits the Gunnison Basin.
The separate populations in Colorado are: Pinon Mesa, Crawford, San Miguel Basin, Gunnison Basin, Dove Creek, Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Simo Mesa, and Poncha Pass. The Utah population is near Monticello. Click for a map courtesy of Colorado Division of Wildlife.
Habitat: Gunnison sage-grouse require a variety of habitats such as large expanses of sagebrush with a diversity of grasses and forbs and healthy wetland and riparian ecosystems. It requires sagebrush for cover and fall and winter food.
On November 12, 2014, the Service announced that it has determined that the Gunnison sage-grouse, a ground-dwelling bird found only in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah, requires the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as a threatened species. The Service originally proposed to list the species as ‘endangered’ under the ESA in January 2013, but efforts by the two states, tribes, local communities, private landowners and other stakeholders to conserve the species and its habitat have helped reduce the threats to the bird sufficiently to give it the more flexibly protected status of ‘threatened.’
On May 6, 2014, the Service announced that the D.C. District Court has granted a six-month extension of the deadline to make the final decision on whether to list the Gunnison sage-grouse for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
On February 11, 2014, the Service announced today a six-week extension of its final decisions on proposals to protect the Gunnison sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act, and to designate critical habitat for the species. A final determination on both proposals will now be submitted by May 12, 2014.
On November 4, 2013, the Service announced that we are reopening the public comment period on the proposals to list the Gunnison sage-grouse and designate critical habitat under the ESA, until December 2, 2013. We are also rescheduling two information sessions and public hearings in Gunnison, Colorado and Monticello, Utah, and adding a third in Montrose, Colorado.
On September 18, 2013, the Service announced the availability of a draft economic analysis and draft environmental assessment for our proposal to designate critical habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse. We are re-opening the public comment period until October 19, 2013, and announcing two public informational sessions and public hearings.
On July 15, 2013, the Service extended for six months a final decision on a proposed rule to list the Gunnison sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act and a proposed rule to designate areas in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah as critical habitat for the bird. The agency is taking this action to consider additional scientific information recently received. Publication of the announcement reopens the comment period on the proposed rules for 45 days.
On January 11, 2013 Service proposed to protect the Gunnison sage-grouse as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. We are also proposing to designate 1.7 million acres of critical habitat for the species. We have extended the public comment period on both proposals until April 2, 2013.
September 27, 2010: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the Gunnison sage-grouse, a bird species found only in southwestern Colorado and extreme southeastern Utah, warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act, but that proposing the species for protection will be delayed while the Service addresses the needs of other higher priority species. The Gunnison sage-grouse will be added to the list of candidate species under the Endangered Species Act and will be proposed for listing when funding and workload priorities for other listing actions allow. As a candidate species, the Gunnison sage-grouse will not have Federal protection and will remain a state-managed species.