Signup for our emails

   Please leave this field empty


Presidential Pardon Requested for Endangered Western Grouse

Obama Administration Determined Three More Grouse Warranted Listing 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 two Thanksgiving turkeys.

"The compassion that marks the Presidential Pardon of the Thanksgiving turkeys 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 for the Western Grouse Project for WildEarth Guardians.

The organization urged President Obama to marry the 46-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. This year the Obama Administration determined that three more grouse—the greater sage-grouse, Mono Basin sage-grouse, and Gunnison sage-grouse—need protection under the ESA, and would be listed if not for other priorities. These grouse join a fourth grouse, the lesser prairie-chicken, as candidates for listing under the ESA. WildEarth Guardians also advocates listing Columbian sharp-tailed grouse under the act.

“The best available science, as interpreted by this administration, supports protecting endangered grouse,” said Salvo. “Their recovery will depend on listing, as well as new policies to protect and restore their habitat.”

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 are imperiled. Four are candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

  • Greater sage-grouse (candidate species) are the iconic ambassador of the Sagebrush Sea. Although the species still occurs in eleven western states, their distribution has decreased by almost half, while rangewide abundance has been reduced by as much as 97 percent from historic levels.
  • Gunnison sage-grouse (candidate species), a distinct species from greater 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.
  • Mono Basin sage-grouse (candidate species) are a genetically distinct population of greater sage-grouse that occur in small populations north, west, and south of Mono Lake in eastern California and southwestern Nevada. The total population of Mono Basin sage-grouse is estimated between 2,712-3,048 in 2010.
  • The lesser prairie-chicken (candidate species) occurs in shinnery oak and sand sagebrush grasslands in parts of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. The species’ current distribution has been reduced to approximately 8 percent of historic range. Total population is variously estimated between 10,000-50,000 individuals, although some experts have warned that fewer than 10,000 birds may remain.
  • Once considered the most abundant grouse in the Intermountain West, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse distribution has been dramatically reduced since 1900. The subspecies now occurs on less than ten percent of its historic range. Although millions of Columbian sharp-tailed grouse occurred in the West historically, only 18,000-25,000 breeding individuals remain in the United States.

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


All active news articles