A final decision whether to list the Gunnison sage grouse for protection under the Endangered Species Act has been extended for six months.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that a Washington, D.C., district court granted the extension this week. Federal wildlife officials had proposed an “endangered species” listing, and the final decision was expected on Monday, May 12.
According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service press release, officials are confident that the extension would not affect the status of the species, because of interim protections in place and the short duration of the extension.
U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet and Congressman Scott Tipton welcomed the news. They each urged federal officials to extend the deadline.
“Gunnison Valley communities have taken extraordinary steps to protect the Gunnison sage grouse, and I am pleased the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has heeded my bipartisan call to seek more time to consider this decision,” Udall said. “The agency’s action in concert with other litigants ensures that all parties can come together to take the best approach to protect the bird.”
“We’re glad the Fish and Wildlife Service is calling for an extension for the decision on the Gunnison Sage Grouse,” Bennet said. “This is an important issue for communities in western Colorado and it’s essential that the agency work with people on the ground to validate and promote local conservation efforts.”
“This announcement is good news for the state and local conservation efforts currently underway in Colorado to preserve the grouse,” Tipton said. “I continue to urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to take into account all public comments submitted, consider the recommendations of those that live in the communities most affected, and provide state and local stakeholders with the measurable species preservation goals they have requested so they can ensure they are being met.”
The state of Colorado and communities in Southwest Colorado have collaborated and invested in Gunnison sage-grouse conservation for nearly 20 years. One concern for local officials is that an endangered listing could designate more than 1.7 million acres in western Colorado and eastern Utah as critical habitat.