A new plan for managing sage grouse habitat was released today and is an important first step in keeping the threatened game bird off the endangered species list. The Environmental Impact Statement from the Bureau of Land Management for Colorado’s sage grouse management plan shows that with proper planning and collaboration between local, state and federal agencies, Colorado can lead the way in protecting remaining greater sage-grouse habitat, and also shows that such action is also vital to protect wilderness and wildlife habitat.
“The alternatives for sage grouse management presented in this plan provide a range of options that the BLM can use to ensure that greater sage grouse remains off the endangered species list and northwest Colorado’s important habitats are protected” said Nada Culver, senior director of agency policy at The Wilderness Society. “With about 1.7 million acres of sage-grouse habitat, almost half of all of the habitat in Northwest Colorado, under this plan, it’s vital that BLM get it right.”
Core sage grouse habitat in Northwest Colorado is being targeted by oil and gas development and planned transmission lines in the region. This same habitat is also some of the most important wilderness-quality lands and wildlife habitats in the state. The area is prized by hunters for its outstanding elk and mule deer herds.
“Northwest Colorado’s famous wildlife habitat is facing death by a thousand cuts,” said Soren Jespersen, Regional Representative at The Wilderness Society. “This is an opportunity for BLM to take a more holistic view of the landscape of northwest Colorado to ensure that the special places and amazing wildlife resources that attract so many people to this region continue to drive our local economies into the future.”
Hunting, angling and outdoor recreation are critical to Colorado’s economy bringing in over 13 billion dollars in consumer spending and supporting 125,000 jobs. Protecting core habitat for sage grouse also means protecting the infrastructure for this part of Colorado’s economy.
“We need to find a solution that protects the traditions and way of life in this region, including the economic benefits of hunting, angling and outdoor recreation bring to bear, plus responsible development of the area’s oil and gas resources,” said Jespersen.
The Wilderness Society would like to see a final plan that protects large tracts of northwest Colorado from habitat fragmentation and industrial uses. “As the sage grouse goes, so goes the habitat of the sagebrush steppe,” continued Jespersen. “We have to put strong protections in place now so our western heritage continues to thrive and so the hammer of the Endangered Species Act doesn’t come down on northwest Colorado.”