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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
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Lakewood, Colorado 80228


October 11, 2000

Chris Warren - Spokane, Washington, 509/891_6839
Terry Ireland - Grand Junction, Colorado, 970/243-2778, x16
Pat Deibert - Cheyenne, Wyoming, 307/772-2374, x26
Lori Nordstrom - Helena, Montana, 406/449-5225, x208
Laura Romin - Salt Lake City, Utah, 801/524-5009, x 142



The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that Columbian sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus columbianus), one of seven recognized subspecies of sharp-tailed grouse in North America, does not warrant range-wide protection under the Endangered Species Act. The finding is in response to a petition filed by the Biodiversity Legal Foundation.

After a 12-month review of the grouse’s status across its range – encompassing Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and British Columbia – the Service found that the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse is not at risk of extinction nor is it likely to become at risk of extinction within the foreseeable future.

The status review concluded that although intensive grazing pressure can be detrimental to nesting and wintering Columbian sharp-tailed grouse habitat, the areas they currently occupy are not subject to such pressure. Most of the areas the grouse inhabits are privately owned and are withdrawn from crop production or intense grazing under the federal Conservation Reserve Program. In addition, mining lands reclaimed under the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Act have also become important areas for conservation of Columbian sharp-tailed grouse in northwestern Colorado.

The review showed that some of the smaller, isolated populations are currently at risk of extinction, but there are numerous larger populations of the species that are relatively secure and possibly increasing. In addition, various state and Federal agencies are actively managing these populations to improve their overall status and are attempting to restore the grouse to unoccupied but suitable habitat.

The Columbian sharp-tailed grouse is a chicken-like bird, the smallest of the seven subspecies of sharp-tailed grouse. The Columbian sub-species has darker gray plumage, more pronounced spotting on the throat and narrower markings on the underside than other subspecies of grouse.

Excessive hunting in the mid-to-late 19th century is believed to be the major contributing factor to the early extirpation of local populations and the initial reduction of the grouse’s range. Conversion to agriculture of the grouse’s preferred shrub-steppe, grassland and riparian habitat contributed to local population declines, along with habitat degradation caused by heavy livestock grazing.

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 and extreme southeastern British Columbia, Canada.

The Service’s 12-month negative finding for the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse was published in today's Federal Register. Copies may be obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Upper Columbia River Basin Field Office, 11103 E. Montgomery Dr., Spokane, WA 99206.

Columbian Sharp-Tailed Grouse Questions and Answers

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 525 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.


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