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Gunnison sage-grouse Centrocercus minimus
ESA status: threatened
Gunnison sage-grouse are distinct from their close relative, the greater sage-grouse, and were officially recognized as a new species in 2000. But like the greater sage-grouse, Gunnison sage-grouse are known for their impressive mating ritual. Their annual spring display is a rapid series of visual and acoustical cues. Gunnison sage-grouse males fan their colorful, pointed tail feathers and toss their long, thick filoplumes (hairlike feathers extending back from the nape of the neck) above their heads, puff out their chests and make an utterly unique popping-gurgling sound from air sacs on their breasts.
Gunnison sage-grouse have experienced significant declines from historic numbers and only about 4,000 breeding individuals remain. The species requires large expanses of undisturbed sagebrush steppe with a full compliment of sagebrush species, native grasses and wildflowers, and associated riparian ecosystems. Unfortunately, myriad land uses including livestock grazing, energy development, motorized recreation, and poor land use planning have fragmented and eliminated much of their habitat. While its range may once have included parts of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona, the species now occurs only in eight small populations in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah, representing less than 10 percent of its historic distribution.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally declared Gunnison sage-grouse "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2014. WildEarth Guardians is working to prevent harmful energy development in Gunnison sage-grouse range and advocating for voluntary grazing permit retirement to eliminate livestock grazing in grouse habitat so that the Gunnison sage-grouse might continue to dance into the future.
- Significant Actions
- September 2010 - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finds the Gunnison sage-grouse “warranted but precluded” for listing, placing it on the ESA candidate list
- May 2011 - Gunnison sage-grouse included in landmark settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- January 2013 - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to list the Gunnison sage-grouse as “endangered”
- January 2013 - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes critical habitat designation for the Gunnison sage-grouse
- April 2013 - WildEarth Guardians and partners comment on the proposed listing and critical habitat designation
- June 2014 - "Too Little and Too Late: Inadequate Regulatory Mechanisms and the Plight of the Gunnison Sage Grouse" (report)
- November 2014 - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists Gunnison sage-grouse as "threatened"
- Press Releases
- December 16, 2008 - "Gunnison Sage-Grouse Makes Top 10 List of Species in Need of Protection"
- March 20, 2009 - "State of the Birds' Report Further Evidence of Need to Protect Western Grouse"
- August 19, 2009 - "Gunnison Sage-Grouse Gets Another Chance at Protection"
- November 24, 2009 - “Presidential Pardon Requested for Endangered Western Grouse”
- September 27, 2010 - “Feds Find Gunnison Sage-grouse Imperiled, but Deny ESA Protection”
- May 10, 2011- “Hope for Endangered Species Act Candidates”
- September 9, 2011 - “Federal Court Approves Historic Species Agreement”
- January 10, 2013 - “Gunnison Sage-grouse Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protection with More than 1.7 Million Acres of Critical Habitat”
- June 25, 2014 - "Local Regulations Inadequate to Protect Gunnison Sage Grouse"
- July 18, 2014 - "Conservation Groups Applaud Federal Planning Effort on Gunnison Sage Grouse"
- January 20, 2015 - "Senior Colorado Grouse Scientist, Conservationists Challenge Inadequate Gunnison Sage-Grouse Protections"
- Species Factsheet
- Related Campaigns