U.S. Senators Michael Bennat and Mark Udall and Congressman Scott Tipton welcomed an agreement today between the U.S. Fish and Wildfire Service and other litigants to come together to seek an extension of the decision deadline on the proposed Endangered Species Act listing of the Gunnison sage grouse. The extension will afford the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service additional time to consider scientific information on the status of the bird, as well as give federal, state and local stakeholders time to advance proactive local solutions.
Bennet, Udall, and Tipton sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week urging the agency to come together with relevant parties to extend the public comment period on the proposed Endangered Species Act listing.
"We're glad the Fish and Wildlife Service is calling for an extension for the decision on the Gunnison Sage Grouse," Bennet said. "This is an important issue for communities in western Colorado and it's essential that the agency work with people on the ground to validate and promote local conservation efforts. Many of these landowners and local governments have done everything right to preserve the bird, and their work should be recognized in Fish and Wildlife's final decision."
"Gunnison Valley communities have taken extraordinary steps to protect the Gunnison sage grouse, and I am pleased the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has heeded my bipartisan call to seek more time to consider this decision," Udall said. "The agency's action in concert with other litigants ensures that all parties can come together to take the best approach to protect the bird. If a final listing decision were forced now, it would have resulted in years of protracted and counterproductive litigation. Today's actions are a win for Colorado and everyone working to save this bird."
"This announcement is good news for the state and local conservation efforts currently underway in Colorado to preserve the grouse," Tipton said. "I continue to urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to take into account all public comments submitted, consider the recommendations of those that live in the communities most affected, and provide state and local stakeholders with the measurable species preservation goals they have requested so they can ensure they are being met."
The state of Colorado and communities in the Gunnison Basin have collaborated and invested in Gunnison sage-grouse conservation for nearly 20 years. The possibility that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife could list the bird as an endangered species and designate more than 1.7 million acres in western Colorado and eastern Utah as critical habitat has spurred continued collaboration among local government and community stakeholders to develop an expanded grassroots plan to preserve the species.
Bennet, Udall, and Tipton have led efforts to ensure the U.S. Fish and Wildfire Service and WildEarth Guardians consider state and local efforts to conserve the Gunnison sage grouse before making a final decision on whether to list the bird under the Endangered Species Act.