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Presidential Pardon Requested for Endangered Western Grouse

Obama Administration will Announce Listing Decisions for Three Grouse in 2010

SANTA FE, N.M. - WildEarth Guardians today requested that President Obama "pardon" endangered grouse in the American West by granting them protection under the Endangered Species Act. The request comes on the cusp of the President’s traditional pardon of a Thanksgiving turkey.

"The compassion that marks the Presidential Pardon of the Thanksgiving turkey should be extended to the imperiled wild grouse of the West, many of which are suffering greatly from mismanagement of their habitat on public lands," said Mark Salvo, Coordinator, Western Grouse Project for WildEarth Guardians.

The organizations urged Obama to marry the 45-year tradition of the Presidential Pardon for Thanksgiving turkeys with the 36-year tradition of the Endangered Species Act providing a vital safety net for fish, wildlife and plants threatened with extinction. The group advocates protection for the Columbian Sharp-Tailed Grouse, Greater Sage-Grouse, Gunnison Sage-Grouse, Lesser Prairie-Chicken and Mono Basin Sage-Grouse. The Obama Administration will make listing decisions for Greater Sage-Grouse and Mono Basin Sage-Grouse in January, and Gunnison Sage-Grouse in June 2010.

"President Obama has the opportunity to protect three imperiled grouse next year and finally institute policies to conserve and restore their habitat,” said Salvo.

The letter notes that 86 percent of Americans support protecting species under the Endangered Species Act and that protecting western grouse will help conserve natural landscapes that benefit both grouse and human communities.

Five western grouse species and distinct populations have been petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act, but are not yet protected.

Columbian Sharp-Tailed Grouse distribution has declined since 1900. The subspecies now occurs in less than ten percent of its historic range. Although millions of Columbian sharp-tailed grouse probably occurred in the West historically, only 18,000 - 25,000 breeding individuals currently remain in the United States.

Greater Sage-Grouse distribution has decreased by 56 percent while rangewide abundance has been reduced by as much as 93 percent from historic levels. The species occurs in parts of eleven western states.

Gunnison Sage-Grouse occur in eight small populations in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. The species has experienced significant declines from historic numbers and only about 4,000 breeding individuals remain. The National Audubon Society identified the Gunnison Sage-Grouse as one of the ten most endangered birds in the United States in 2006.

The current range of Lesser Prairie-Chicken has been reduced to relatively small and scattered areas that comprise approximately 8 percent of historic range. The species total population was recently estimated between 10,000-30,000 individuals.

Mono Basin Sage-Grouse are a genetically distinct population of Greater Sage-Grouse that occur in small populations in southeastern California and southwestern Nevada.

WildEarth Guardians’ letter to President Obama is available here. (PDF)


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