Sportsmen Urge Colorado Governor & Senator to Back Sage Grouse Conservation

Hunters & anglers say protecting the bird protects Western economy, lifestyle

Male Greater-Sage Grouse Photo Jeremy R. Roberts
Male Greater-Sage Grouse; Photo Jeremy R. Roberts
National Wildlife Federation (NWF)
National Wildlife Federation (NWF)

Denver, CO -( Several sportsmen’s organizations are urging Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Cory Gardner to support ongoing efforts to conserve the greater sage-grouse and ensure that strong safeguards are in place in Colorado for the bird and its habitat.

In separate letters sent this week to the governor and Colorado senator, groups representing thousands of hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts in the state expressed support for strong conservation plans to protect not only the sage grouse, “but our Western values, economy and irreplaceable wildlife habitat.”

A 2013 Colorado Parks and Wildlife report estimated that hunting, fishing and other wildlife-related recreation produce a total of about $5 billion in annual economic benefits. Organizations signing the letters are: the National Wildlife Federation, Colorado Wildlife Federation, Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance, Colorado Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Colorado Pheasants Forever, Colorado Trout Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

The sportsmen’s and outdoor organizations voiced concerns about Gardner’s bill, which would delay for six years a decision on whether the greater sage-grouse needs protection under the Endangered Species Act. Under a court settlement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has until Sept. 30 to render a listing decision.

“Any measures that delay a September 2015 deadline will effectively take the wind out of the sails of the efforts currently underway to protect the bird and the sagebrush ecosystem, the benefits of which will extend to other iconic wildlife,” the groups wrote in the letter.

Further delay sends the wrong message to Colorado and other states working on sage-grouse conservation plans, they added.

“For years, a large and varied group of stakeholders – including the federal government, Western states, landowners, ranchers and sportsmen – has worked together to sustain populations of the grouse and sagebrush ecosystems across the West,” said Dan Parkinson, board member of the Colorado chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “We strongly urge Colorado’s elected officials to act in the best interests of our state’s wildlife by undertaking proactive actions in support of sage-grouse and the habitat on which it relies.”

In the letter to Hickenlooper, the groups urged the governor to issue an executive order promoting greater sage-grouse conservation because a strong executive order and “subsequent management plan will allow Colorado to continue its role as an energy leader while ensuring our state’s abundant wildlife, outdoor economy and way of life are protected.”

“Greater sage-grouse numbers have been declining across the West for years and the bird’s habitat, which is home to many other critters we all care about, is at risk. Now is not the time to back off the work that state and federal agencies, private landowners and others have been doing to avoid the need to apply federal protections,” said Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s public lands policy director. “If the Endangered Species List is eventually invoked because we lose our focus, we will have failed the sage grouse and the more than 350 species that depend on the sagebrush steppe.”

Zimmerman noted another threat to sage-grouse conservation is a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that would bar the Fish and Wildlife Service from making a decision of the sage grouse’s status for 10 years and impose unprecedented limits on federal agencies’ ability to manage the bird and its habitat.

The House Armed Services Committee approved the bill, which is expected to advance to the full House.

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