Conservation Matters September 2015

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

Greater sage-grouse not listed under ESA following conservation campaign

Greater sage-grouse not listed under ESA following conservation campaign

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has concluded that the greater sage-grouse does not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). According to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), an unprecedented, landscape-scale conservation effort across the western United States has significantly reduced threats to the rangeland bird across 90 percent of the species’ breeding habitat and enabled the decision.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell made the announcement Sept. 22 with a video explaining why the decision is historic and sets the groundwork for a 21st-century approach to conservation.

FWS reached this determination after evaluating the bird’s population status, along with the collective efforts by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, state agencies, private landowners and other partners to conserve its habitat, according to DOI. Despite long-term population declines, sage-grouse remain relatively abundant and well-distributed across the species’ 173-million acre range. After a thorough analysis of the best available scientific information and taking into account ongoing key conservation efforts and their projected benefits, the FWS has determined the bird does not face the risk of extinction now or in the foreseeable future and therefore does not need protection under the ESA.

“This is truly a historic effort — one that represents extraordinary collaboration across the American West,” Jewell said. “It demonstrates that the Endangered Species Act is an effective and flexible tool and a critical catalyst for conservation — ensuring that future generations can enjoy the diversity of wildlife that we do today. The epic conservation effort will benefit westerners and hundreds of species that call this iconic landscape home, while giving states, businesses and communities the certainty they need to plan for sustainable economic development.”

“Today’s decision reflects the joint efforts by countless ranchers and partners who have worked so hard to conserve wildlife habitat and preserve the Western way of life,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Together, we have shown that voluntary efforts joining the resources of private landowners, federal and state agencies, and partner organizations can help drive landscape-level conservation that is good for sage-grouse, ranching operations and rural communities. Through the comprehensive initiatives on both public and private lands, the partnership has made and will continue to make monumental strides in supporting the people and wildlife that depend on the sagebrush landscape.”

Read the full DOI press release and visit doi.gov/sagegrouse for more details. 

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