FWS will take 6 more months in Gunnison sage grouse ESA review

The US Fish and Wildlife Service said it will take another 6 months to decide whether to designate the Gunnison sage grouse as an endangered species, and areas of southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah as critical habitat for the bird.

“We heard loud and clear from many people invested in Gunnison sage grouse conservation that there is additional scientific information we should consider during our decision-making process,” said FWS Mountain-Prairie Regional Director Noreen Walsh on July 15.

The US Department of the Interior agency’s proposals’ original public comment period ended Apr. 2, with final determinations scheduled for Sept. 30. The new public comment period will end Sept. 3, and the final decision is set for Mar. 31, 2014.

Colorado’s US senators—Democrats Michael F. Bennet and Mark Udall—and US Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), who is a House Natural Resources Committee member, applauded the agency’s move. The three federal lawmakers requested the extension in a July 12 letter to US Sec. of the Interior Sally Jewell and US Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Kent Holsinger, a Denver lawyer who has worked on behalf of oil and gas producers in the matter, said in an e-mail to OGJ that it was encouraging FWS recognized there are significant issues with the proposed rulings, “given the remarkable conservation efforts in place and positive population trends in recent years.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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