Threatened status for Gunnison Sage-Grouse called "wise compromise."
Gunnison Sage-Grouse © Gerrit Vyn

Federal Listing of Gunnison Sage-Grouse as “Threatened” is a
Wise Compromise and Good Outcome for State and Local Recovery Efforts

November 13, 2014
John W. Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, comments on the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Gunnison Sage-Grouse as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.
Fitzpatrick says:

“This listing accomplishes several important things. First, it draws the world’s attention to the fact that the Gunnison Sage-Grouse is a unique species at significant risk of extinction. With a population of only a few thousand birds left, including a number of tiny and isolated populations, the persistence and genetic health of this species are in real danger. Remember, these are birds with a bizarre social system that makes them extremely vulnerable to genetic problems that accelerate the extinction of small populations.
“Second, listing the species as Threatened, rather than Endangered, and including carefully crafted, explicit provisions that exempt and protect existing conservation initiatives, recognizes the substantial progress already underway through state and private efforts to stabilize the population.
“Finally, official protection under the Endangered Species Act qualifies the Gunnison Sage-Grouse for substantially increased federal funding and investments for state recovery actions, including landowner compensation.
“Too often, Endangered Species Act listings are cast as a federal government-versus-the-states issue. But the ESA contains specific provisions that transfer authority and funding to the states, promoting local engagement and action. Because of this listing, Colorado and Utah will be eligible for new federal money to take the actions that local biologists and landowners deem as important to save Gunnison Sage-Grouse. Of crucial importance are the smaller populations outside the Gunnison Basin that are in dire need of expanded habitat protection.
“Overall, this clearly was a science-based decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and it is a very positive outcome for local efforts to preserve this iconic dancing grouse of the American West."
On March 16, 2013, Fitzpatrick authored an op-ed for the New York Times about the need for Endangered Species protection for the Gunnison Sage-Grouse.

Pat Leonard
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Office: 607-254-2137
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