|The Mountain-Prairie Region|
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
July 7, 2005
Contact: Al Pfister
Environmental Assessment and Proposed Conservation Agreement for Gunnison Sage-Grouse Available for Public Comment
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today the availability of an Environmental Assessment and a proposed conservation agreement to augment ongoing efforts to enhance the abundance and distribution of the Gunnison sage-grouse throughout its historic range in Colorado. The Environmental Assessment is in response to an application by the Colorado Division of Wildlife on behalf of the State of Colorado to the Service for an Enhancement of Survival Permit pursuant to section 10 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The agreement, permit application, and Environmental Assessment are available for public comment until September 6, 2005.
The purpose of the conservation agreement, known as a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA), is to enable the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) and the Service to implement conservation measures for the Gunnison sage-grouse in 15 counties in southwestern Colorado. The conservation measures would be implemented by the CDOW and by participating landowners. The selected conservation measures would primarily come from the Gunnison Sage-Grouse Rangewide Conservation Plan which was completed in April 2005 by numerous cooperating agencies and nongovernmental organizations.
The agreement is intended to facilitate the conservation of Gunnison sage-grouse by giving the State of Colorado and cooperating landowners incentives to implement conservation measures. Participating landowners would receive regulatory certainty concerning land use restrictions that might otherwise apply should the Gunnison sage-grouse become protected under the ESA.
The Environmental Assessment considers the biological, environmental, and socioeconomic effects of the proposed conservation agreement and issuance of the permit.
On March 15, 2000, the Service found that protection of the Gunnison sage-grouse under the ESA may be warranted and initiated a review of the species’ status. A final determination regarding whether listing is warranted is expected in the Fall of 2006. The Gunnison sage-grouse currently occupies about 10 percent of its historic range in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. The largest remaining population is located in Gunnison and Saguache Counties, Colorado, which comprises approximately just over 80 percent of all the remaining birds throughout the species range.
Under a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, participating landowners voluntarily implement conservation activities on their properties to benefit species that are proposed for listing under the ESA, candidate species, or other sensitive species. CCAAs encourage private and other non-Federal property owners to implement conservation efforts and reduce threats to unlisted species by assuring them they will not be subjected to increased property use restrictions if the species should become listed under the ESA.
Written comments should be submitted to Allan Pfister, Western Colorado Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 764 Horizon Drive, Building B, Grand Junction, CO 81506-3946. Written comments also may be provided electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org or by facsimile to 970-245-6933.
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 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 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 and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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