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Letter Highlights Opportunities, Potential Pitfalls in Management Planning
Jim Catlin, Executive Director, Wild Utah Project * 801-328-3550
Conservationists urged western governors today to seize the opportunity to join with the federal government to conserve greater sage-grouse on public and private lands in the West.
“Western states have an unprecedented—and urgent—opportunity to protect and recover sage-grouse,” said Mark Salvo, Director of the Sagebrush Sea Campaign for WildEarth Guardians. “The only other option is to list the species under the Endangered Species Act.”
An iconic indicator of sagebrush steppe, sage-grouse have declined in number and range for decades due to a poor stewardship. Today they are a candidate for listing as “threatened” or “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act.
Recognizing the need to improve management, the federal government has initiated a comprehensive planning process to conserve and recover sage-grouse. States have an important role in this process. They have authority over sage-grouse as a game species, own 5 percent of current sage-grouse range, and can ensure that private land owners meet their stewardship obligations for sage-grouse.
“The good news is that we know how stewardship must change to protect and restore sage-grouse,” said Jim Catlin, Executive Director of Wild Utah Project. “Healthy sage-grouse habitat will also benefit human needs. Western governors have an opportunity to lead on sage-grouse conservation.”
Conservation organizations have developed a scientifically viable recovery strategy for sage-grouse consistent with federal and state law, guidelines and polity. In a letter to governors, ten organizations have recommended western states consider those conservation measures for state and private lands, appropriate funds for sage-grouse conservation, develop scientifically viable sage-grouse conservation plans, and consider establishing an interstate compact for sage-grouse conservation.
Sage-grouse is a favored game species, but hunting has been curtailed in recent decades to conserve the species. Conservationists also advised states to inform the federal government—the largest landowner in sagebrush steppe—how many sage-grouse they wish to harvest annually so that management plans can account for those surpluses.
Conservation organizations that signed the letter include WildEarth Guardians, The Larch Company, American Bird Conservancy, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Grand Canyon Trust, Yellowstone to Uintas Connection, Wild Utah Project, Living Rivers/Colorado Riverkeeper, Canyonlands Watershed Council, and Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.