Gov. John Hickenlooper and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead will co-chair a task force with U.S. Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey to examine ways states can provide management tools and habitat protections for the sage-grouse.
The task force was created in December after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and officials from states that contain habitat for the greater sage-grouse agreed to collaboratively identify actions that could preclude the need to list the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act.
"We are pleased to join Gov. Mead in working with other Western states to find ways we can protect this majestic, iconic Western species," Hickenlooper said. "This task force will work with federal agencies and existing groups to find strategies states can employ to keep this species vibrant and off the threatened and endangered species list. We have our work cut out for us, but we are optimistic we can make great strides with this effort."
"The goal of the Endangered Species Act is not to add to the list, but to protect the species so they never make it to the endangered species list," Mead said. "I appreciate Governor Hickenlooper, the 9 other western governors and the Director Abbey joining us to create a state-led plan that will balance conservation of the sage-grouse with development and job creation."
The greater sage-grouse is a large, rounded-winged, ground-dwelling bird, up to 30 inches long and 2 feet tall, weighing from 2 to 5 pounds. The birds are found at elevations ranging from 4,000 to more than 9,000 feet and are highly dependent on sagebrush for cover and food.
Currently, greater sage-grouse are found in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, eastern California, Nevada, Utah, western Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan and occupy approximately 56 percent of their historical range.
After a thorough analysis of the best available scientific information, the Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded that the greater sage-grouse warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act. However, the Service has determined that proposing the species for protection is precluded by the need to take action on other species facing more immediate and severe extinction threats.