[Federal Register: May 7, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 88)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 22984-22994]
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; 12-Month Finding 
for a Petition To List the Washington Population of Western Sage Grouse 
(Centrocercus urophasianus phaios)

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 12-month petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
12-month finding for a petition to list the Washington population of 
western sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus phaios) under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We find that the 
petitioned action is warranted, but precluded by higher priority 
listing actions. We will develop a proposed

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rule to list this population segment pursuant to our Listing Priority 
Guidance (LPG). We made this finding in accordance with a court-
approved settlement in the case of Northwest Ecosystem Alliance v. 
Babbitt (No. 00-520-EAS(D.D.C)).

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on April 30, 

ADDRESSES: Submit information, comments, or questions concerning this 
petition finding to the Supervisor, Upper Columbia Fish and Wildlife 
Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 11103 East Montgomery Drive, 
Spokane, Washington 99206. The petition, administrative finding, 
supporting information, and comments received are available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Chris Warren, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, at the above address, by phone at (509) 891-6839, facsimile 
at (509) 891-6748, or electronic mail at chris_warren@fws.gov.



    Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), as 
amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires that, for any petition that 
contains substantial information, we conduct a status review and make a 
finding within 12 months of the date of receipt of the petition on 
whether the petitioned action is: (a) not warranted, (b) warranted, or 
(c) warranted but precluded from immediate proposal by other pending 
proposals of higher priority. Upon making a 12-month finding, we must 
promptly publish such notice in the Federal Register.
    On May 28, 1999, we received a petition, dated May 14, 1999, from 
the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance, Bellingham, Washington, and 
Biodiversity Legal Foundation, Boulder, Colorado. The petitioners 
requested that the Washington population of western sage grouse 
(Centrocercus urophasianus phaios) be listed as threatened or 
endangered under the Act. The petition clearly identified itself as 
such and contained the names, addresses, and signatures of the 
petitioning organizations' representatives. Accompanying the petition 
was information relating to the taxonomy, ecology, threats, and the 
past and present distribution of western sage grouse.
    The petitioners requested listing of the Washington population of 
western sage grouse based upon threats to the population and its 
isolation from the remainder of the taxon, and they provided biological 
and ecological support for this argument. We considered this request 
appropriate because, while we do not base listing decisions on 
political subdivisions other than international boundaries, we must 
consider for listing under the Act any population of vertebrate taxa 
(species or subspecies) if it can be recognized as a distinct 
population segment (DPS) (61 FR 4722). The criteria under which we 
recognize DPSs are based upon the population's discreteness from the 
remainder of the taxon and its significance to the taxon to which it 
belongs. Therefore, our status review considered the population segment 
of western sage grouse in Washington as it relates to the remainder of 
the taxon.
    In July, 2000, the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) recognized 
sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) by the common name of greater 
sage grouse. In addition, the AOU recognized sage grouse inhabiting 
southwestern Colorado and extreme southeastern Utah as a congeneric 
species (C. minimus), referred to as Gunnison sage grouse (AOU 2000). 
The western subspecies of greater sage grouse (C. u. phaios) was first 
described in 1946 (Aldrich 1946) and was recognized by the AOU in 1957 
(AOU 1957). Compared to the eastern subspecies (C. u. urophasianus), 
western sage grouse have reduced white markings and darker grayish-
brown feathering, resulting in a more dusky overall appearance. We 
adopted the above nomenclature and recognized ranges of these taxa for 
this finding.
    We condensed information regarding the description and natural 
history of greater sage grouse from the following sources--Aldrich 
1963, Dalke et al. 1963, Johnsgard 1973, Connelly et al. 1988, Fischer 
et al. 1993, Drut 1994, WDFW 1995, Western Sage and Columbian Sharp-
tailed Grouse Workshop (WSCSGW) 1996 and 1998, and Schroeder et al. 
    Grouse are gallinaceous (chicken-like, ground-nesting) birds, and 
greater sage grouse are the largest North American grouse species. 
Males and females have dark grayish-brown body plumage with many small 
gray and white speckles, fleshy yellow combs over the eyes, long 
pointed tails, and dark-green toes. Males also have blackish chin and 
throat feathers, specialized erectile feathers at the back of the head 
and neck, and white feathers around the neck and upper belly. During 
breeding displays, males also exhibit patches of bare, olive-green skin 
on their breasts.
    Greater sage grouse depend on shrub steppe habitats throughout 
their life cycle, and are particularly tied to several species of 
sagebrush (Artemesia spp.). Adult greater sage grouse rely on sagebrush 
throughout much of the year to provide roosting cover and food, and 
depend almost exclusively on sagebrush for food during the winter. A 
wide variety of forbs (broad-leaved herbaceous plants) are also used by 
greater sage grouse during the spring and summer periods. Greater sage 
grouse hens require sufficient forb abundance for their pre-laying and 
nesting periods, and an assortment of forb and insect species form 
important nutritional components for chicks during the early stages of 
development. Greater sage grouse may disperse up to 160 kilometers (km) 
(100 miles (mi)) between seasonal use areas, however, average movements 
are generally less than 35 km (21 mi).
    During the spring breeding season, male greater sage grouse gather 
together and perform courtship displays on relatively open areas called 
leks. Leks are often surrounded by more dense shrub steppe cover where 
males and females may disperse to roost or escape predators during the 
breeding season. Males defend individual territories within leks and 
perform elaborate displays with their specialized plumage and 
vocalizations to attract females for mating. Relatively few, dominant 
males account for the majority of breeding on a given lek.
    Females typically select nest sites under sagebrush cover, although 
other vegetation is sometimes used. The simple nests consist of scrapes 
on the ground, which are sometimes lined with feathers and vegetation. 
Clutch sizes range from 6 to 13 eggs, and females may renest with loss 
of their first clutch. Nest success ranges from 10 to 63 percent and is 
relatively low compared to other prairie grouse species. Chicks begin 
to fly at 2 to 3 weeks of age and broods remain together for up to 12 
weeks. Shrub canopy and the cover provided by grasses and forbs act to 
conceal nesting hens and their broods.
    The annual mortality rate for greater sage grouse is roughly 50 to 
55 percent, which is relatively low compared to other prairie grouse 
species. Most juvenile mortality occurs during nesting and the chicks' 
flightless stage and is due primarily to predation or severe weather 
conditions. Up to 50 percent of all greater sage grouse mortality is 
caused by predation, from both avian (e.g., hawks, eagles, and ravens) 
and ground (e.g., coyotes, badgers, and ground squirrels) predators.
    Historically, greater sage grouse occurred in 12 States and 3 
Canadian provinces (after Schroeder et al. 1999);

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their range extended from southeastern Alberta and southwestern 
Saskatchewan, Canada, south to northwestern Colorado, west to eastern 
California, Oregon, and Washington, and north to southern British 
Columbia, Canada. Range-wide, the distribution of greater sage grouse 
has declined in a number of areas. Currently, greater sage grouse occur 
in 11 States and 2 Canadian provinces; they were extirpated from 
Nebraska and British Columbia (after Braun 1998). There have also been 
considerable declines in the abundance of greater sage grouse from 
historic levels (Hornaday 1916, Crawford and Lutz 1985, Drut 1994, WDFW 
1995, Coggins and Crawford 1996, Braun 1998, Schroeder et al. 1999, 
among others).
    The historic distribution of western sage grouse extended from 
south-central British Columbia southward throughout eastern Washington 
and Oregon, except in extreme southeastern Oregon near the Idaho/Nevada 
borders (Figure 1). Populations in northern California and western 
Nevada are thought to represent an intermediate form between the 
western and eastern subspecies of greater sage grouse (AOU 1957, 
Aldrich 1963). Currently, western sage grouse occupy central and 
southern Oregon and two relatively small areas in central Washington.


[[Page 22987]]



[[Page 22988]]

    Except for Wallowa County, western sage grouse were distributed 
throughout the sagebrush-dominated habitats of eastern Oregon until the 
early 1900s (Gabrielson and Jewett 1940). By 1920, western sage grouse 
populations had decreased and the birds were considered scarce except 
for areas in central and southern Oregon (Gabrielson and Jewett 1940, 
Drut 1994). Presently, Malheur, Harney, and Lake Counties harbor the 
bulk of greater sage grouse in Oregon (roughly 24,000 to 58,000 birds, 
both subspecies combined), with the balance of Oregon's western sage 
grouse population (roughly 3,000 to 8,000 birds) split among Baker, 
Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Klamath, Union, and Wheeler Counties (after 
Willis et al. 1993).
    Historically, western sage grouse in Washington ranged from 
Oroville in the north, west along the Cascade foothills, east to the 
Spokane River, and south to the Oregon border (Yocom 1956). Historic 
references indicate there were large numbers of western sage grouse in 
Washington (in Sveum 1995 and WDFW 1995), and annual State harvests 
averaged roughly 1,800 birds from 1951 to 1973. Harvest rates declined 
from 1974 (n = 900) to 1987 (n = 18), and Washington closed the hunting 
season in 1988 (WDFW 1995). Western sage grouse currently occupy 
approximately 10 percent of their historic distribution in the State. 
There are two subpopulations of western sage grouse remaining in 
Washington, totaling approximately 1,000 birds (WSGWG 1998). The 
northern subpopulation occurs primarily on private and State-owned 
lands in Douglas County (roughly 650 birds); the southern subpopulation 
occurs at the Yakima Training Center (YTC), administered by the U.S. 
Department of the Army (Army), in Kittitas and Yakima Counties (roughly 
350 birds).
    Rough estimates, based on the historic distribution of western sage 
grouse (after WDFW 2000) and contemporary density projections 
(Johnsgard 1973; Drut et al. 1994a; WDFW 1995; Schroeder, WDFW, pers. 
comm. 1999), indicate that there may have been between 200,000 and 
2,000,000 western sage grouse historically. Using best- and worst-case 
scenarios, western sage grouse abundance has declined between 66 
percent and 99 percent from historic levels, respectively.
Previous Federal Action
    We added the western sage grouse to our candidate species list on 
September 18, 1985, as a category 2 species (50 FR 37958). Category 2 
species were those for which we possessed information indicating that a 
proposal to list as endangered or threatened was possibly appropriate, 
but for which conclusive data on biological vulnerability and threats 
were not available to support a proposed rule. On February 28, 1996, we 
discontinued the designation of category 2 species as candidates for 
listing under the Act (61 FR 7596).
    In 1992, we entered into a voluntary Conservation Agreement with 
the Army and the WDFW for western sage grouse occurring at the YTC. The 
Conservation Agreement expired April 30, 2000. Efforts to update and 
implement a revised Conservation Agreement for western sage grouse 
throughout Washington are ongoing.
    We published a 90-day finding for the subject petition on August 
24, 2000 (65 FR 51578), which concluded that substantial information 
was available to indicate that the petitioned action may be warranted 
and that a status review would commence. The original public comment 
period ended October 23, 2000, but was reopened on January 9, 2001 
until February 16, 2001, to provide additional opportunity for input 
from interested parties (66 FR 1632). This 12-month finding is made in 
accordance with a court-ordered settlement in the case of Northwest 
Alliance v. Babbitt (No. 00-520-EAS(D.D.C.)), which requires us to 
complete a finding by May 1, 2001.

Distinct Population Segment Review

    Under the Act, we must consider for listing any species, 
subspecies, or, for vertebrates, any DPS of these taxa if there is 
sufficient information to indicate that such action may be warranted. 
To implement the measures prescribed by the Act and its Congressional 
guidance, we (along with the National Marine Fisheries Service) 
developed policy that addresses the recognition of DPSs for potential 
listing actions (61 FR 4722). The policy allows for more refined 
application of the Act that better reflects the biological needs of the 
taxon being considered and avoids the inclusion of entities that do not 
require its protective measures.
    Under our DPS policy, we use two elements to assess whether a 
population segment under consideration for listing may be recognized as 
a DPS. The elements are: (1) The population segment's discreteness from 
the remainder of the taxon; and (2) the population segment's 
significance to the taxon to which it belongs. If we determine that a 
population segment being considered for listing represents a DPS, then 
the level of threat to the population segment is evaluated based on the 
five listing factors established by the Act to determine if listing it 
as either threatened or endangered is warranted.
    Below, we assess the population segment of western sage grouse that 
remains in Washington under our DPS policy.
    Discreteness--A population segment of a vertebrate species may be 
considered discrete if it satisfies either one of the following two 
conditions: (1) It is markedly separated from other populations of the 
same taxon as a consequence of physical, physiological, ecological, or 
behavioral factors. Quantitative measures of genetic or morphological 
discontinuity may provide evidence of this separation. (2) It is 
delimited by international governmental boundaries within which 
differences in control of exploitation, management of habitat, 
conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms exist that are 
significant with regard to conservation of the taxon. We did not 
address the international boundary criterion in this 12-month petition 
finding because western sage grouse have been extirpated from British 
    The two subpopulations of western sage grouse that remain in 
central Washington are separated by approximately 55 km (34 mi). While 
this distance is well within the species' maximum estimated dispersal 
distance, a number of recent telemetry studies have never documented 
their intermixing (Schroeder pers. comm. 1999; Pounds, YTC, pers. comm. 
1999). However, until recently, the two subpopulations were considered 
relatively continuous and may now represent isolated components of a 
single metapopulation (WDFW 1995, Schroeder et al. 2000). In addition, 
sporadic sightings outside current concentrations indicate there may be 
some minimal interaction and, possibly, genetic interchange between 
them (WDFW 1995).
    The next closest western sage grouse to the population in 
Washington are located over 185 km (115 mi) to the south, in central 
Oregon. Historically, there was a greater level of continuity and 
interaction between the population segments of western sage grouse in 
these two regions (Drut 1994). However, bottlenecks in the distribution 
of western sage grouse may have existed historically across central 
Oregon (Figure 1). In this area, western sage grouse range is confined 
to relatively narrow corridors of lower elevation, shrub steppe 
habitats that transect higher elevation, forested habitats. In 
addition, the shrub steppe habitats and land forms found in central 
Oregon may further restrict western sage grouse

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distribution within this region (see below).
    It is currently unclear to what extent the restrictions of shrub 
steppe habitats in central Oregon may have acted to isolate population 
segments of western sage grouse historically. Nevertheless, with regard 
to western sage grouse seasonal movements, dispersal behavior, and 
recent census information (Schroeder pers. comm. 1999; Pounds pers. 
comm. 1999; Ferry, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, pers. comm. 
2001), the population segment remaining in Washington is now considered 
physically discrete from the population segment in central and southern 
Oregon (WDFW 1995, WSGWG 1998, Schroeder et al. 2000). It is likely 
that the population segments within these two regions have been 
physically discrete since at least the early-1900s (Gabrielson and 
Jewett 1940, Crawford and Lutz 1985, Drut 1994).
    Based on the above information, we find that the population segment 
of western sage grouse that occurs in Washington is discrete from the 
remainder of the taxon.
    Significance--Our DPS policy provides several examples of the types 
of information that may demonstrate the significance of a population 
segment to the remainder of its taxon, including--(a) Persistence of 
the discrete population segment in an ecological setting unusual or 
unique for the taxon; and (b) evidence that the discrete population 
segment differs markedly from other population segments in its genetic 
characteristics; and (c) evidence that loss of the discrete population 
segment would result in a significant gap in the range of the taxon. We 
address these significance factors below as they relate to the 
population segment of western sage grouse that remains in Washington.
    (a) Persistence in an unusual or unique ecological setting--The 
broad shrub steppe biome historically occupied by greater sage grouse 
across their range consists of a number of variable habitat types that 
grade from one to the next, and which may be considerably different 
between the regions occupied by the species (Miller and Eddleman 2000). 
The different habitats historically and currently occupied by greater 
sage grouse are a reflection of the different geologic, climatic, and 
edaphic (soil) conditions and disturbance regimes influencing the 
various regions within the shrub steppe biome (Miller and Eddleman 
2000). Necessarily, greater sage grouse have adapted to the mosaic of 
shrub steppe habitat types found throughout their historic distribution 
(Schroeder et al. 1999).
    With regard to the historic range of western sage grouse, several 
studies defined and mapped landscape-level ecosystem components of the 
northwestern United States (Franklin and Dyrness 1988, Quigley et al. 
1997), while others focused on the management and conservation of 
natural resources within these regional ecosystems (Wisdom et al. 1998, 
Miller and Eddleman 2000). Although there are a number of differences 
between these studies and their stated objectives, the ecosystem 
mapping units that result are surprisingly consistent (Quigley et al. 
1997). Use of this biogeographic information is important in 
determining if the population segment of western sage grouse that 
remains in Washington occupies an unusual or unique ecological setting. 
In addition, it is important for delineating the bounds of any 
potential DPS in the region, as required by our DPS policy.
    Four (and potentially five) of the ecosystems identified by the 
above studies provide essential habitat requirements for western sage 
grouse. For the purposes of this finding, we refer to the ecosystems 
historically occupied by western sage grouse as the Columbia Basin, 
High Lava Plains, Northern Great Basin, Owyhee Uplands, and, 
potentially, the Modoc Plateau (after Quigley et al. 1997). The 
Columbia Basin occurs in Washington and northern Oregon, while the 
other four ecosystems occur in central and southern Oregon. These 
ecosystems are interspersed to varying degrees with forested habitats 
of the Southern and Eastern Cascades ecosystems to the west, Okanogan 
Highlands to the north, and the Bitterroot and Blue Mountains to the 
east; and steppe (grassland) habitats of the Palouse Prairie to the 
    The population segment of western sage grouse that remains in 
Washington occurs entirely within the Columbia Basin and is the only 
representation of the taxon within this ecosystem. The population 
segment of western sage grouse in central and southern Oregon shows 
nearly continuous occupation across the High Lava Plains, Northern 
Great Basin, and Owyhee Uplands. Given the available information, it is 
unclear if the disjunct subpopulation of greater sage grouse in the 
vicinity of Gerber Reservoir in extreme south-central Oregon (Modoc 
Plateau) represents western sage grouse or the northern extent of 
intermediate populations in northern California. This area is not 
considered further for the purposes of this finding.
    A number of significant differences are found between the Columbia 
Basin and the balance of historic western sage grouse range in central 
and southern Oregon (Table 1). In general, the Columbia Basin is lower 
in elevation, contains deeper soils of varying origin, and has been 
influenced by different geological processes. These structural 
differences, combined with regional climatic conditions, significantly 
influence the broad plant associations found within each ecosystem 
(Daubenmire 1988, Franklin and Dyrness 1988). Historically, 
transitional steppe habitats were much more prevalent within the 
Columbia Basin than within the ecosystems of central and southern 
Oregon. In contrast, juniper (Juniperus spp.) woodlands and salt-desert 
shrub habitats were much more common in central and southern Oregon. 
Finally, there are significant differences in the type and distribution 
of sagebrush taxa among the ecosystems historically occupied by western 
sage grouse.

Table 1.--Differences in Ecosystem Elements Between Regions 
Occupied by the Extant Population Segments of Western Sage Grouse 
(After Winward 1980, Daubenmire 1988, Franklin and Dyrness 1988, 
McNab and Avers 1994, Dobler et al. 1996, Quigley et al. 1997, and 
Miller and Eddleman 2000)

                                                                Ecosystem Elements--Geologic, Edaphic, and Transitional Habitats
       Population  segment                 Elevations                  Soils          Channeled scablands         playas                Steppe           Juniper  woodland    Salt-desert shrub
Columbia Basin...................  3,000 ft..................  Deep/Loamy Glacial/   Prominent (north)...  Rare/Absent.........  Abundant (east).....  Rare/Absent.........  Rare/Absent.

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Central/Southern Oregon..........  >3,500 ft.................  Thin/Rocky Volcanic/  Rare/Absent.........  Prominent (NGB, OU)   Rare/Absent.........  Abundant (HLP)        Abundant (NGB, OU).
                                                                Alluvial.                                   \1\.                                        Present (NGB, OU).
\1\ Element primarily applies to the ecosystems noted: HLP--High Lava Plains; NGB--Northern Great Basin; OU--Owyhee Uplands.

                                                                        Ecosystem Elements--Sagebrush (Artemesia) Taxa\1\
      Population segment           Basin  ssp        Wyoming ssp      Mountain ssp           Low            Three-Tip           Stiff             Early            Silver             Black
Columbia Basin................  Dominant........  Rare/Absent.....  Rare/Absent.....  Rare/Absent.....  Abundant (north)  Abundant........  Rare/Absent.....  Rare/Absent.....  Rare/Absent.
Central/Southern Oregon.......  Rare/Absent.....  Dominant........  Abundant........  Abundant........  Present (OU)....  Present.........  Present (HLP)...  Present (NGB,     Present (NGB,
                                                                                                                                                               OU).              OU).
\1\ Big Sagebrush (A. tridentata) Subspecies (ssp): Basin--A.t. tridentata, Wyoming--A.t. wyomingensis, Mountain--A.t. vaseyana; Low--A. arbuscula; Three-tip--A. tripartita; Stiff--A. rigida;
  Early--A. longiloba; Silver--A. cana; Black--A. nova.

    There are a number of broad habitat associations in common between 
the Columbia Basin and the ecosystems of central and southern Oregon 
(Daubenmire 1988, Franklin and Dyrness 1988). However, even within 
these common habitat associations, notable differences exist. In 
general, the composition of forb species differs considerably between 
the Columbia Basin and the ecosystems in central and southern Oregon 
(Daubenmire 1988 and Franklin and Dyrness 1988). Even when the same 
forb species may be present, the two regions typically support 
different subspecies and/or varieties of these taxa (Hitchcock and 
Cronquist 1973).
    The differences noted above between the Columbia Basin and the 
ecosystems of central and southern Oregon affect the essential habitat 
requirements of western sage grouse within these different regions, as 
described below.
    Greater sage grouse are sagebrush ``obligates'' and depend on 
sagebrush to a great degree to provide essential food and cover 
requirements, especially during winter (Drut 1994, Barnett and Crawford 
1994, WDFW 1995, Schroeder et al. 1999). Greater sage grouse display 
preferential use of different taxa of sagebrush as winter food 
(Remington and Braun 1985, Welch et al. 1991) and, in some areas, low 
sagebrush may be preferred over big sagebrush (in Schroeder et al. 
1999). In addition, greater sage grouse display preference for the 
different subspecies of big sagebrush as food, showing the highest 
preference for mountain big sagebrush, followed by Wyoming big 
sagebrush, then basin big sagebrush (Welch et al. 1991). The different 
growth forms of sagebrush taxa (Winward 1980 and 1981, Meyer 1992) also 
provide different cover conditions for greater sage grouse, and their 
winter movements are associated with locating appropriate sites (WDFW 
1995, Schroeder et al. 1999). The sagebrush taxa that are available as 
winter food and cover for western sage grouse differ between the 
Columbia Basin and the ecosystems of central and southern Oregon (Table 
    During the breeding season, adult greater sage grouse undergo a 
nutritional deficit and lose weight (WDFW 1995, Schroeder et al. 1999). 
During this period and continuing into summer, forbs and insects become 
increasingly important as food items for greater sage grouse. Western 
sage grouse hens require sufficient forb abundance for their pre-laying 
and nesting periods, and an assortment of forb and insect species form 
important nutritional components for chicks during the early stages of 
their development (Gregg et al. 1993, Barnett and Crawford 1994, Drut 
et al. 1994b, Hanf et al. 1994). Preferential use of food resources by 
greater sage grouse is believed to be associated with the foods' 
nutritive values, the dietary needs of the birds, and, ultimately, the 
birds' reproductive fitness and survival (Remington and Braun 1985, 
Johnson and Boyce 1990, Barnett and Crawford 1994, Drut et al. 1994a, 
Drut et al. 1994b, Hanf et al. 1994, WDFW 1995, Schroeder et al. 1999). 
Many of the native forb species and varieties that differ between the 
Columbia Basin and the ecosystems of central and southern Oregon 
(Hitchcock and Cronquist 1973, Franklin and Dyrness 1988) form 
important food items for greater sage grouse from spring through 
summer, including those within the genera Agoseris, Astragalus, Crepis, 
Aster, Erigeron, Eriogonum, and Lomatium (Sveum 1995, Miller and 
Eddleman 2000).
    From spring through fall, sagebrush canopies provide vertical cover 
for greater sage grouse, while grasses and forbs provide horizontal 
cover. This variety of cover is very important for concealing nesting 
hens and their broods from potential avian and ground predators, as 
well as providing protection from inclement weather. Western sage 
grouse in central and southern Oregon use different sagebrush habitat 
associations (e.g., mountain big sagebrush, low sagebrush) throughout 
the spring and summer periods (Gregg et al. 1993, Barnett and Crawford 
1994, Drut et al. 1994a, Hanf et al. 1994). The sagebrush habitat 
associations preferentially selected by western sage grouse in central 
and southern Oregon are not available to the population segment within 
the Columbia Basin (Table 1).
    Juniper woodlands and salt-desert shrub communities are notable 
primarily for their potential to exclude western sage grouse and the 
management implications that result. As juniper becomes more abundant 
and areas become increasingly closed woodlands, use by greater sage 
grouse is precluded. The exclusion of fire from juniper woodlands allow 
these communities to expand. Active invasion of sagebrush habitat 
associations by juniper woodlands has occurred over the last 130 years 
(Miller and Eddleman 2000). Likewise, salt-desert shrub habitats are 
not typically used by greater sage grouse. Intense grazing pressure and 
other local activities that can affect the hydrology of an area (e.g., 

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mining, impoundments) may alter the composition and distribution of 
salt-desert shrub communities. The historic, present, and predicted 
future occurrence of juniper woodlands and salt-desert shrub 
communities differ between the Columbia Basin and the ecosystems of 
central and southern Oregon (Table 1, Keane et al. 1996).
    Based on the above information, we conclude that the Columbia Basin 
represents a unique ecological setting due to its geologic, climatic, 
edaphic, and plant community components. In addition, the unique 
elements of the Columbia Basin ecosystem affect the essential habitat 
requirements of western sage grouse. Necessarily, the population 
segment of western sage grouse occupying the Columbia Basin must 
differentially exploit the resources that are available, as compared to 
the population segment within the ecosystems of central and southern 
Oregon. The different habitat use patterns of western sage grouse 
within the Columbia Basin have bearing on their food and cover 
preferences, distribution, movements, reproductive fitness, and, 
ultimately, their survival. The unique elements of the Columbia Basin 
also hold different management implications for western sage grouse 
within this ecosystem (see below).
    (b) Markedly different genetic characteristics--To date, most 
genetic research on greater sage grouse has concentrated on clarifying 
issues surrounding the taxonomic separation of Gunnison sage grouse in 
Colorado. Results of this research show Gunnison sage grouse to have a 
dissimilar genetic profile and less genetic diversity than greater sage 
grouse populations in Colorado (Quinn et al. 1997, Oyler-McCance et al. 
    This information supports the new species designation for these 
birds (AOU 2000). The genetic information concerning Gunnison sage 
grouse demonstrates that the genus may differentiate significantly 
within a relatively small geographic region. In addition, this 
information is important for helping to determine the extent of genetic 
differentiation between population segments of greater sage grouse, and 
whether such differentiation may be significant to the remainder of the 
    Additional studies to investigate the range-wide genetic profiles 
of greater sage grouse are ongoing (Quinn et al. 1997; Benedict and 
Quinn 1998; Benedict et al. 2001). To date, range-wide investigations 
include samples from Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, and 
Washington. Sample sizes are minimal for portions of the range, and the 
results are preliminary and have been used primarily to guide further 
investigation (Oyler-McCance, University of Denver, pers. comm. 1999; 
Quinn pers. comm. 1999).
    The range-wide investigations into the genetic profiles of greater 
sage grouse have identified a number of rare and unique haplotypes 
(from mitochondrial DNA). In addition, haplotype frequencies and the 
level of genetic diversity vary among the local populations sampled 
(Quinn et al. 1997, Benedict and Quinn 1998, Benedict et al. 2001). So 
far, there are several notable results from this range-wide work 
(Benedict et al. 2001). First, the population sampled from the Mono 
Lake area in California and Nevada stands out for having an unusually 
high proportion of novel haplotypes, sharing only a single haplotype 
(represented by just one individual) with the rest of the range. This 
population represents the extreme southwestern extent of historic 
greater sage grouse range. Second, there is no apparent genetic 
distinction between the recognized eastern and western subspecies. 
Third, the population segment that remains within the Columbia Basin 
stands out for having very low genetic diversity, with just three 
haplotypes represented among the two subpopulations. Thirteen 
individuals sampled from the northern subpopulation (n = 18) and all of 
the individuals sampled from the southern subpopulation (n = 18) 
represent a single, widespread haplotype that is shared with most of 
the other sampled locales. The remaining five individuals from the 
northern subpopulation are represented by a novel (n = 3) or rare (n = 
2) haplotype (Benedict et al. 2001).
    The comparatively low genetic diversity of the population segment 
of western sage grouse that remains within the Columbia Basin is 
consistent with a recent and severe bottleneck in its effective 
population size (i.e., the number of individuals contributing to 
reproduction), reduced or no gene flow to this population segment from 
other regions, or both (Benedict et al. 2001, Oyler-McCance et al. in 
litt. 2001). The results from the range-wide work on the regional 
genetic profiles of greater sage grouse are suggestive and demonstrate 
a marked difference between the population segment of western sage 
grouse within the Columbia Basin and the population segment in central 
and southern Oregon. However, these results do not necessarily indicate 
that genetic differentiation of this population segment is significant 
to the remainder of the taxon. To what extent the forces of isolation, 
adaptive change, genetic drift, and/or inbreeding may have influenced 
the regional genetic profiles of greater sage grouse, including those 
that remain within the Columbia Basin, merits further investigation 
(Benedict et al. 2001, Oyler-McCance et al. in litt. 2001).
    (c) Significant gap in the range of the taxon--Western sage grouse 
represent the extreme northwestern extent of greater sage grouse range. 
In addition, the population segment that remains within the Columbia 
Basin represents an isolated portion of the northern-most extent of the 
historic distribution of western sage grouse. The Columbia Basin 
historically encompassed roughly 55 percent of the entire range of 
western sage grouse (Figure 1). Currently, western sage grouse occupy 
approximately 5 percent of their historic distribution within this 
    A number of studies address the characteristics of peripheral and/
or isolated populations and their potential influences on, and 
importance to, the remainder of the taxon. Peripheral and isolated 
populations may experience increased directional selection due to 
marginal or varied habitats or species compositions at range 
peripheries, exhibit adaptations specific to these differing selective 
pressures, demonstrate genetic consequences of reduced gene flow 
dependent on varying levels of isolation, and/or have different 
responses to anthropogenic influences (Levin 1970, MacArthur 1972, 
Morain 1984, Lacy 1987, Hengeveld 1990, Saunders et al. 1991, Hoffmann 
and Blows 1994, Furlow and Armijo-Prewitt 1995, Garcia-Ramos and 
Kirkpatrick 1997, among others).
    Recent discussions addressed the attributes of isolated and 
peripheral populations and their potential importance to conservation 
efforts. Some investigations would emphasize genetic distinctiveness 
(Lesica and Allendorf 1995, Waples 1998), while others suggest a 
spectrum of influences may demonstrate the value of discrete 
populations (Pennock and Dimmick 1997, Ruggiero et al. 1999). The 
purposes of the Act are to conserve species ``* * * of esthetic, 
ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific 
value. * * *'' As addressed above, the DPS policy reflects this broader 
objective and does not limit the concept of significance strictly to 
genetic distinctiveness.
    The available information regarding the historic distribution and 
potential isolation of western sage grouse within the Columbia Basin 
demonstrates that this population segment is likely experiencing 
increased directional selection due to marginal and varied

[[Page 22992]]

habitats at the taxon's range periphery, exhibiting genetic 
consequences of reduced gene flow from other population segments, and 
responding (and will continue to respond) to the different 
anthropogenic influences in the region.
    Based on the above information, we conclude that loss of the 
population segment of western sage grouse that remains within the 
Columbia Basin would represent a significant gap in the historic range 
of the taxon (i.e., the loss of a conspicuous peripheral and isolated 
extension of historic range and representation of the taxon within a 
unique ecological setting).


    To summarize, we find that the discrete population segment of 
western sage grouse that occurs in Washington is significant to the 
remainder of the taxon, and thus represents a distinct population 
segment. The significance of this population segment is primarily due 
to its persistence in the unique ecological setting of the Columbia 
Basin. In addition, information concerning the historic and current 
distribution of western sage grouse indicates that the loss of the 
Columbia Basin population segment would represent a significant gap in 
the historic range of the taxon. Finally, the available genetic 
information on western sage grouse, while inconclusive, further 
supports the recognition of this population as a DPS. We have 
determined that extirpation of this population segment may result in 
the loss of unique characteristics within the taxon, likely precluding 
further scientific inquiry into potential differentiation of these 
    As required by our DPS policy, we determined that the bounds of 
this DPS are conterminous with the historic distribution of western 
sage grouse within the Columbia Basin ecosystem (Figure 1). 
Consequently, we refer to this population segment as the Columbia Basin 
DPS for the remainder of this finding.
    Consideration of threats to, and conservation measures for, the 
Columbia Basin DPS are addressed below.

Summary of Factors Affecting the DPS

    The Act establishes five categories of threat that, either singly 
or in combination, indicate a DPS may be threatened or endangered. The 
five listing factors that must be considered are--(1) present or 
threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of habitat or 
range; (2) over-utilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, 
or educational purposes; (3) disease or predation; (4) inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; and (5) other natural or human-caused 
factors affecting the DPS' continued existence.
    (1) Present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment 
of habitat or range. A number of influences have been implicated in the 
decline of greater sage grouse distribution and abundance throughout 
the species' range (Crawford and Lutz 1985, Blus et al. 1989, Braun et 
al. 1994, Drut 1994, WDFW 1995, Fischer et al. 1996, Connelly and Braun 
1997, Schroeder et al. 1999). Of primary concern are impacts to native 
shrub steppe habitats, which include conversion for agriculture, urban 
and mineral resources developments, construction of utility and 
transportation corridors, and habitat degradation through overgrazing, 
brush control, altered fire frequencies, and exotic species invasions. 
Other potential influences that may be associated with greater sage 
grouse population declines include predation, excessive hunting, 
disease and parasitism, chemical applications for pest control, weather 
cycles, and recreational activities. As a result of these combined 
influences, greater sage grouse distribution and abundance have 
continued to decline over the past decade, and a number of populations 
may now be at risk of extinction throughout the species' range (in 
WSCSGW 1996 and 1998). Currently, greater sage grouse populations may 
be considered secure in five States, including Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, 
Nevada, and Oregon (Connelly and Braun 1997).
    Native Americans began grazing horses in the Columbia Basin in the 
mid-1700s and, by the mid-1800s, European settlers had established 
extensive cattle and horse grazing operations throughout the shrub 
steppe habitats used by western sage grouse (Daubenmire 1988, WDFW 
1995, Livingston 1998). By the late 1800s, sheep production became 
increasingly important and large flocks were grazed along with other 
previously established livestock herds. Concurrent with significant 
declines in native shrub steppe habitats (see below), contemporary 
grazing levels are much reduced from historic levels. However, large 
livestock operations continue within the shrub steppe habitats of the 
Columbia Basin to the present. From 1986 to 1993, roughly 500,000 
cattle were being supported in nine central Washington counties that 
historically harbored western sage grouse (WDFW 1995).
    There is some evidence that the shrub steppe habitats of the 
Columbia Basin evolved in the absence of substantial grazing pressure 
from large native herbivores since the latest period of glaciation, 
roughly 12,000 years before present (Mack and Thompson 1982, Daubenmire 
1988). Excessive grazing pressure can have significant impacts on the 
shrub steppe ecosystems found throughout the historic range of greater 
sage grouse (Fleischner 1994), and these impacts may be exacerbated in 
the Columbia Basin. In this region, excessive grazing removes current 
herbaceous growth and residual cover of native grasses and forbs, and 
can increase the canopy cover and density of sagebrush and invasive 
species (Daubenmire 1988, WDFW 1995, Livingston 1998). These impacts 
may be especially critical to western sage grouse populations during 
the spring nesting and brood rearing periods, and may negatively affect 
their reproductive potential (Crawford 1997, Connelly and Braun 1997, 
Schroeder et al. 1999).
    The latest available estimate (1993) of the number of cattle 
supported in Douglas County, which also supports the northern 
subpopulation of the Columbia Basin DPS, is roughly 20,000 (WDFW 1995). 
It is currently unclear if this level of livestock use in the county 
may have negative effects on western sage grouse or their habitats. 
Prior to 1992, livestock grazing pressure was intense throughout the 
area of Kittitas and Yakima Counties that now comprises the YTC, which 
supports the southern subpopulation of the Columbia Basin DPS. In 1992, 
grazing intensity was reduced at the YTC within the western sage grouse 
protection areas identified by the Army. In 1995, cattle grazing was 
eliminated throughout the installation (Livingston 1998). Twice 
annually during spring and fall, flocks of sheep are trailed through 
the YTC over a period of several weeks (Pounds pers. comm. 1999). It is 
unknown to what degree current livestock use levels may be impacting 
western sage grouse or their habitat at the YTC. However, impacts from 
past livestock grazing are still evident throughout the installation 
(Livingston 1998).
    During the first half of the 1900s, large portions of the shrub 
steppe habitats on deeper soils within the Columbia Basin were 
converted for dryland crop production (Daubenmire 1988, Franklin and 
Dyrness 1988, WDFW 1995). During the mid-1900s, a number of hydro-
electric dams were developed on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in 
Washington and Oregon. The reservoirs formed by these projects impacted 
native shrub steppe habitats adjacent to the rivers and led to further 
conversion of large expanses of upland shrub steppe habitats in the 
Columbia Basin

[[Page 22993]]

for irrigated agriculture (WDFW 1995, Franklin and Dyrness 1988). It 
has been estimated that approximately 60 percent of the original shrub 
steppe habitat in Washington has been converted, primarily for 
agricultural uses (Dobler 1994). While at much reduced levels, shrub 
steppe habitats within the Columbia Basin continue to be converted for 
both dryland and irrigated crop production. In addition, the U.S. 
Bureau of Reclamation retains options for further development of the 
Columbia Basin Irrigation Project in central Washington (USDI 1998). 
Major portions of Washington's shrub steppe ecosystem are considered 
among the least protected areas in the state (Cassidy 1997).
    Large areas of privately owned lands in Douglas County are 
currently withdrawn from crop production and planted to native and non-
native cover under the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), 
established in 1985 (USDA 1998). Lands under the CRP are very important 
to the northern subpopulation of the Columbia Basin DPS (Schroeder 
pers. comm. 1999). These areas, some of which have been set aside since 
the late 1980s, can provide the essential grass and shrub cover 
requirements of western sage grouse on lands previously used for 
agriculture. The juxtaposition of CRP lands with the remaining areas of 
native shrub steppe habitats and crop lands may further increase the 
value of these habitat patches for western sage grouse (Schroeder pers. 
comm. 1999). A number of CRP contracts in Washington have expired since 
1995, and more are scheduled to expire from now through 2002. New 
contracts completed in 1998 for Douglas County have increased the 
acreage of CRP lands potentially available for use by western sage 
grouse. However, contracts extend for just 10 years and new standards 
for CRP lands will be implemented that may require replanting of 
significant acreage under existing contracts (USDA 1998; Schroeder 
pers. comm. 1999). Presently, it is unclear what effects these changes 
have had, or will have, on the northern subpopulation of the Columbia 
Basin DPS.
    In 1991, the Army expanded the YTC along its northern boundary by 
approximately 24,000 ha (60,000 ac) to form its present configuration 
and size of approximately 130,000 ha (325,000 ac). One of the primary 
justifications for expansion of the installation was to reduce impacts 
to heavily used areas by allowing rotational training exercises and 
rehabilitation of impacted sites (USDD 1989). In 1994, the Army 
restationed mechanized and armored combat forces to Fort Lewis in 
western Washington (USDD 1994). This action was undertaken to 
accommodate brigade-level maneuver exercises and may result in an 
increase in overall training activity and associated impacts at the 
YTC. Large-scale training exercises at the YTC are scheduled to occur 
at 18- to 24-month intervals and may involve more than 10,000 troops 
and 1,000 tracked and wheeled vehicles. Small-scale training exercises 
are also conducted annually at the YTC by other United States' (e.g., 
Washington National Guard) and allied military units (USDD 1989, 
Livingston 1998).
    In the fall of 1995, the Army conducted its first large-scale 
training exercise at the YTC following the restationing action. 
Analysis of the impacts from this exercise indicated that over 9 
percent of the sagebrush plants within the western sage grouse 
protection areas experienced major structural damage. In addition, 
modeling exercises indicated that sagebrush cover would decline due to 
similar training scenarios if conducted on a biannual basis (Cadwell et 
al. 1996). Analyses of the potential impacts to other shrub steppe 
components that may be important to western sage grouse at the YTC 
(e.g., grass, forb, and insect quality and abundance), or those 
associated with the smaller, ongoing training activities, are not 
currently available. However, it has been suggested that native 
vegetation on impacted sites with limited soil disturbance will recover 
following large-scale maneuver exercises (Cadwell et al. 1996). In 
addition, the YTC conducts aggressive revegetation efforts for 
sagebrush and native grasses within the western sage grouse protection 
areas (Livingston 1998) and has eliminated season-long grazing on the 
installation (USDD 1996). Evaluation of the quality or quantity of 
naturally recovered areas and the efficacy of revegetation efforts is 
currently not available.
    Natural and human-caused fire is a significant threat to western 
sage grouse throughout the Columbia Basin because, at increased 
frequencies, it can remove sagebrush from the vegetation assemblage 
(USDI 1994, WDFW 1995). Sagebrush is easily killed by fire (Daubenmire 
1988) and, in the absence of a sufficient seed source, may not readily 
reinvade sites where it has been removed. Fire may be especially 
damaging at the YTC where military training activities provide multiple 
ignition sources, vegetative cover is relatively continuous, and 
invasive species such as cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) and knapweed 
(Centauria spp) may provide fine fuels that can carry a fire. The Army 
considered fire management and control in its planning efforts for the 
restationing action (USDD 1996), and the YTC has since developed a 
detailed fire management plan (USDD 1998). However, the potential for 
relatively large range fires to occur at the YTC remains. In 1996, over 
25,000 ha (60,000 ac) of shrub steppe habitat, much of it currently and 
potentially used by western sage grouse, was burned as a result of 
training activities. A fire of this magnitude within the identified 
western sage grouse protection areas would jeopardize the subspecies' 
persistence at the installation (Livingston 1998).
    (2) Over-utilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes. Recent scientific investigations in Washington 
have resulted in some mortality of western sage grouse. However, the 
level of mortality incurred is not likely to significantly influence 
the viability of the Columbia Basin DPS (Schroeder pers. comm. 1999; 
Pounds pers. comm. 1999).
    The northern subpopulation of the Columbia Basin DPS occurs 
primarily on private lands and is not subject to extensive viewing by 
the general public or other recreational activities (Schroeder pers. 
comm. 1999). The YTC closely manages recreation and sage grouse viewing 
by the general public using the installation, and these activities are 
not believed to be significant to the well-being of the southern 
subpopulation of the Columbia Basin DPS (Pounds pers. comm. 1999).
    The Columbia Basin DPS has not been subject to hunting since 1987 
(WDFW 1995).
    (3) Disease or predation. Greater sage grouse are subject to a 
number of mortality factors related to disease and predation (WDFW 
1995). However, there are apparently no documented severe episodes of 
disease or predation that have played a significant role in the 
population declines and range reduction of western sage grouse. 
Episodes of disease or altered predation patterns may play an important 
role in the dynamics of small and isolated populations, and increase 
the risk of their extirpation (see below).
    (4) Inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. Revegetation 
standards under the CRP promote the improvement of habitat conditions 
for the northern subpopulation of the Columbia Basin DPS, and the CRP 
restricts livestock grazing on contract lands except under 
extraordinary circumstances. However, these measures are not 
specifically promulgated for the protection of

[[Page 22994]]

western sage grouse, and there are few other mechanisms that regulate 
grazing practices or the conversion of native habitats on privately 
owned lands.
    The Service is currently assisting with development of a county-
wide Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for private lands in central 
Washington (Foster Creek Conservation District, Douglas County). When 
completed, the HCP will include measures to protect the northern 
subpopulation of the Columbia Basin DPS. However, the Act does not 
provide regulatory protections for unlisted species during development 
of HCPs (USDI 1996).
    Some illegal or accidental shooting of western sage grouse may 
occur in Washington in association with hunting seasons for other 
upland game species. However, the state hunting moratorium and hunting 
regulations implemented by the Army at the YTC appear to be sufficient 
to control this form of mortality, and it is not likely to 
significantly influence the viability of the Columbia Basin DPS 
(Schroeder pers. comm. 1999; Pounds pers. comm. 1999).
    The Army implements a number of regulations at the YTC to promote 
environmental protection of the installation's natural resources. 
However, various impacts to the habitats important to western sage 
grouse occur, and are primarily the result of training-related fire and 
direct damage to vegetation communities from training maneuvers (see 
    (5) Other natural or human-caused factors affecting the DPS' 
continued existence. The fragmented, isolated nature of the Columbia 
Basin DPS is a concern for conservation of the taxon within the 
Columbia Basin ecosystem. A preliminary viability analysis conducted by 
the WSGWG (1998) indicates that neither subpopulation is likely viable 
over the long term (approximately 100 years). In addition to the 
relatively large-scale impacts on native shrub steppe habitats (above), 
other naturally occurring impacts and human influences of lesser 
magnitude may pose threats to the Columbia Basin's isolated 
subpopulations. Potential risks include direct impacts to individuals 
from inclement weather conditions, altered predator demographics or 
behavior, agricultural practices (e.g., cultivation, harvest, etc.), 
vehicle collisions, pest control measures, scientific investigations, 
and military training (e.g., smoke obscurant and live-fire exercises, 
etc.). Impacts may also result from indirect disturbance of the 
subpopulations caused by agricultural and grazing activities, 
transportation corridors, recreation, and military training events 
(over-flights, troop movements, etc.). Small, isolated populations may 
also be at greater risk to the effects of inbreeding (Benedict et al. 
2001, Oyler-McCance et al. in litt. 2001). Although it is unlikely that 
any one of these factors have played a significant role in the 
population declines and range reductions of western sage grouse, these 
combined influences may now play an important role in the dynamics of 
the relatively small and isolated subpopulations that make up the 
Columbia Basin DPS.


    We reviewed the petition, information available in our files, other 
published and unpublished information submitted to us during the public 
comment period following our 90-day petition finding and consulted with 
recognized prairie grouse experts and other federal, state, and tribal 
resource agencies within the historic range of western sage grouse. On 
the basis of the best scientific and commercial information available, 
we find that listing the Columbia Basin DPS of western sage grouse as 
threatened is warranted, but precluded by higher priority listing 
    In making this finding, we recognize that there have been declines 
in the distribution and abundance of western sage grouse throughout the 
Columbia Basin, primarily attributed to the loss and degradation of 
native shrub steppe habitats. These impacts are likely due to a 
combination of factors including crop production, fire, military 
training, over-grazing by livestock, rural and suburban development, 
and dam construction. The Columbia Basin DPS of western sage grouse is 
also at increased risk from inbreeding depression and random 
environmental influences due to its small size and level of 
fragmentation. We also recognize that various state and Federal 
agencies in Washington and Oregon, and throughout the species' historic 
distribution, are actively managing the birds to try to improve their 
overall population status and/or attempting to restore them to 
currently unoccupied habitats.
    Due to a backlog of listing decisions and funding constraints, a 
proposed rule to list the Columbia Basin DPS of western sage grouse 
will be developed in accordance with our October 22, 1999, (or 
subsequent) LPG (64 FR57114). Under the LPG, we prioritize our listing 
activities based upon the magnitude of threats to a listable entity, 
followed by the immediacy of the threats, and, finally, by the taxonomy 
of an entity (i.e., monotypic genus, followed by species, then 
subspecies / DPS). The two subpopulations of the Columbia Basin DPS are 
subject to different threats of varying magnitude. However, we conclude 
that the overall magnitude of threats to the Columbia Basin DPS of 
western sage grouse is moderate, and that the overall immediacy of 
these threats is imminent. Under our listing and recovery priority 
guidance (48 FR 43098), a DPS for which threats are moderate and 
imminent is assigned a Listing Priority Number of 9.
    We intend that any proposed listing action for the Columbia Basin 
DPS of western sage grouse will be as accurate and effective as 
possible. Therefore, we will continue to accept additional information 
and comments from other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific 
community, industry, or any other interested party concerning this 

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited herein is available upon 
request from the Upper Columbia Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES 


    This document was prepared by Chris Warren, Upper Columbia Fish and 
Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).


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

    Dated: April 30, 2001.
Marshall P. Jones, Jr.,
Acting Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 01-11356 Filed 5-4-01; 8:45 am]