Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are directly involved in conservation efforts and strategies to conserve the greater sage grouse (GSG) given its potential listing as threatened or endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Working with local communities, private landowners and other entities, the State developed a comprehensive conservation plan in 2008 that included a range of voluntary efforts to protect habitat so as to promote thriving populations in the northwest region of Colorado. This plan was the basis for the State to build upon for the current consideration of possible listing. The State is working with all interests to assess how well these conservation efforts are working and what more can be done to improve upon them.
"Given the unique landscapes and natural resources in Colorado, a Colorado-based solution is more practical that one handed down by the federal government," Hickenlooper said. "We hope the Bureau of Land Management will look at the public-private partnerships that have been so successful in Colorado as a model on how to get things done."
The State is working with local communities and stakeholders on a plan that is designed to promote conservation while also preserving the vibrant economic activities occurring in this region of the state. For example:
Colorado has spent more than $40 million since 2000 on GSG conservation efforts, including planning, land protection, monitoring and habitat restoration
Since 2004, DNR has protected more than 74,000 acres of GSG habitat (primarily via conservation easements). Another 24,000 acres are managed by other conservation organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy.
Habitat treatments, such as invasive plant removal, have been conducted on 50,000 acres.
Management plans exist on 273,000 acres, including wildlife mitigation plans, grazing plans, ranch management plans and habitat suitability plans.
The State submitted the "Colorado Package" to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) -- an update to the 2008 GSG Conservation Plan, developed with input from all 25 "lead responsible agencies."
Representatives from the Governor's Office have participated in hundreds of community and stakeholders meetings about the GSG in the past nearly three years.
An ongoing synthesis report includes analysis of wildlife protection regulations for oil and gas operators, efforts from northwest counties to update or revise land use plans, summary and analysis of grazing practices and evaluation of State Land Board lands for habitat suitability.
The State is driving for the right balance, one that provides robust protections for the GSG without the need for a federal listing while ensuring that northwest Colorado communities maintain economic health and flexibility. The State will continue working with our federal partners toward this outcome.
Regarding the proposed U.S. Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) revisions to its resource management plans to conserve the species, DNR has served as a cooperating agency throughout the development of the environmental impact study (EIS).
The State is preparing comments on the BLM's draft environmental analysis by the due date of Dec. 2. The State's comments will identify individual provisions largely within two alternatives that will help provide protection of species while not infringing on existing economic activities such as grazing, oil and gas production, and community development, and will propose the creation of a hybrid approach that accomplishes this in the final EIS.
Also, Hickenlooper sent a letter last April to USFW Director Daniel Ashe asserting that based on sound science and strong public-private partnerships within Colorado the Gunnison Sage Grouse, a different species with a distinct habitat range in Colorado, should not be listed.