February 11, 2014
Service Announces Extension of Final Decisions on
Listing the Gunnison Sage-Grouse and Designating Critical Habitat
DENVER—The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today a six-week extension of its final decisions on proposals to protect the Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and to designate critical habitat for the species. A final determination on both proposals was due March 31, 2014. However, due to delays caused by the lapse in government appropriations in October 2013, and the resulting need to reopen a public comment period and reschedule public hearings associated with this action, the Court has now approved a six week extension of that deadline, to May 12, 2014. This extension will ensure thorough consideration and evaluation of the numerous public comments received on the proposed listing rule and proposed critical habitat rule for Gunnison sage-grouse.
As a result of ongoing and future threats to the species’ survival, the Service on January 11, 2013, proposed ESA protection for the species and proposed the designation of critical habitat essential for the species’ survival and recovery. About 5,000 breeding Gunnison sage-grouse exist, occupying seven population areas in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. “Thanks to collaborative conservation efforts, the largest Gunnison sage-grouse population has remained relatively stable over the past 18 years,” said the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Regional Director Noreen Walsh. “However, the status of the remaining populations remains uncertain, and we want to make sure our final decision is based on strong science.”
Critical habitat is a term defined in the ESA and identifies geographic areas containing features essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and that may require special management considerations or protection. The designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, and has no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or permits.
The last comment period for both proposed rules ended on December 2, 2013. All comments have been incorporated into the public record, and the Service will fully consider them in the preparation of our final determinations. More information about the Gunnison sage-grouse and the Service’s proposed rules is available at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/birds/gunnisonsagegrouse/.
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