Conservationists Advise Western Governors on Sage-Grouse Conservation
Letter Highlights Opportunities, Potential Pitfalls in Management Planning
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
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.