Monday, April 17, 2006

ENV: Gunnison Sage Grouse

PORTLY SAGE GROUSE REJECTED THIS TIME
No Spot on Endangered Species List for Gunnison Sage Grouse
By David Frey, 4-13-06

The Gunnison sage grouse is running out of room in its native habitat due to energy exploration, drought and disease. The southwestern Colorado bird won’t find any room on the endangered species list, either.

Wildlife officials say the bird’s future is good enough for government work.

The Denver Post reports that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has decided not to put the Gunnison sage grouse on the endangered species list. That has environmentalists (get ready for it) grousing that the bird is merely hanging on by its talons.

The Denver-based Center for Native Ecosystems says the bird’s population has dwindled 90 percent over the past half-century. The Post cites a 2005 Colorado Division of Wildlife survey that found more than 4,000 of the birds living in the Gunnison Basin, up from 2,320 the previous year. Biologists attribute the increase, at least in part, to a series of wet-weather years that provided some drought release and improved the grouse’s habitat.

DOW officials also point to other habitat improvements. Ranchers are putting land in conservation easements, and agencies have staged controlled burns on overgrown habitat and planted native grasses to aid the Gunnison sage grouse.

Some environmentalists, though, worry that’s not enough.

"Denying these critical protections now is another nail in the coffin for Gunnison sage grouse," Erin Robertson, a biologist for the organization, told the Post.

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