ESA Ruling for Sage-grouse a Win for Collaborative Conservation, Says BHA

Sportsmen stress need to continue implementing conservation plans to keep the bird off Endangered list, sustain habitat relied upon by sage-grouse as well as numerous other species

Gunnison Sage Grouse
Gunnison Sage Grouse
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

Missoula, MT -( Backcountry Hunters & Anglers commended the Interior Department’s issuance today of a “not warranted” listing decision for the greater sage-grouse, calling the federal ruling “a product of successful collaboration” among stakeholders while at the same time urging continued adherence to Bureau of Land Management plans to advance the bird’s recovery.

“The decision to render a ‘not warranted’ listing decision for the sage grouse is a product of successful collaboration among a range of diverse stakeholders,” said BHA President and CEO Land Tawney, “including sportsmen, recreationists, business owners, ranchers and other private landowners, Western states and the federal government. BHA supports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s ruling, which will uphold hunting and fishing, keep working lands in production and enable sage-grouse populations to recover and thrive.”

The listing decision is being announced this morning by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Denver. Sage-grouse conservation plans tailored for individual states’ needs also are being finalized at the event, attended by high-ranking administration officials, Western state governors and other stakeholders, including representatives of BHA.

“The Service’s ruling reflects the very first dividends from a long-term investment: Our commitment to conserving some of our most valuable Western lands, the outdoor opportunities they provide and the economic growth they offer,” stated Tawney. “In addition to sage-grouse, more than 350 species rely on the sagebrush steppe. Our support of this ongoing conservation work will continue to pay dividends from which all Americans stand to gain.”

At one time numbering more than 16 million, populations of the greater sage-grouse experienced dramatic declines due to habitat loss, fragmentation and development. In recent years, however, Western states and the federal government have collaborated on conservation plans for sage-grouse habitat that balance access for recreational opportunities like hunting with other land uses like ranching and energy development.

The 4.2 million acres of sagebrush steppe occupied by the grouse provide habitat for more than 350 species of fish and wildlife, including big-game species such as mule deer, pronghorn and elk. Healthy and functioning sage-grouse habitat fuels an outdoor-reliant economy that provides a stable source of income for communities across the West.

Today, BHA volunteer leaders united to reiterate the critical role played by this habitat, the need to continue collaborative conservation efforts, and the importance of Congress’ support of these efforts:

John Sullivan, co-chair of BHA’s Montana chapter (Missoula):

“As a Montana hunter, I’m very pleased with the Fish and Wildlife Service decision not to list the sage-grouse as threatened or endangered. The conservation work being done to protect the sage-grouse has been expansive and effective. I’m excited to watch the bird’s numbers continue to rebound so that hunters today and tomorrow will be able to find them afield for generations to come.”

Chris Mero, chairman of BHA’s Nevada chapter (Reno):

“Sportsmen have actively engaged in efforts to avoid the necessity of listing the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act, and we are gratified by the Service’s ruling. We will continue to work with Western states and the federal government to implement strong conservation plans for sage-grouse habitat. These plans balance access for recreational opportunities like hunting with other uses like ranching and energy development, resulting in a win-win scenario for a range of stakeholders.”

Janet Marschner, BHA Wyoming chapter board member (Cheyenne):

“Wyomingites are acutely aware of the need to responsibly manage sage-grouse and their habitat. Our state is home to more than half of the nation’s remaining sage-grouse, as well as a much of its habitat. An endangered listing for the grouse would have had widespread implications in Wyoming – not just for hunters like myself but for business owners, ranchers and everyday working citizens. We therefore appreciate the Fish and Wildlife Service decision, and we remain committed to the continued implementation of the BLM plans.”

Bob Meulengracht, BHA member from Colorado (Lakewood):

“Hundreds of species of fish and wildlife rely on sagebrush ecosystems in Colorado and across the West. The Fish and Wildlife Service decision not to list the sage-grouse as endangered is a win for wildlife in general – and an acknowledgement that multi-stakeholder conservation activities like these can be very effective in sustaining fish and game numbers. We thank the Service for their work, and we will continue to press forward in collaborative efforts to conserve fish, wildlife and their habitats.”

Jeff Barney, BHA Idaho board member (Boise):

“Today’s decision culminates the single-largest landscape-level conservation planning endeavor I’ve ever witnessed. Seeing sportsmen and women, ranchers and industry come together with state and local governments around the West is truly remarkable. This type of thoughtful collaboration is a model for the future of fish and wildlife conservation. We must continue partnering together to implement these conservation plans and put the investments to work in sagebrush country. Species like greater sage-grouse, which need large tracts of intact habitat with minimal disturbance, only have a chance for population recovery when stakeholders unite and let science guide decisions – not politics and finance.”

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