Saving a vanishing bird of the West

Gunnison Sage Grouse

Noppadol Paothong

The Gunnison sage grouse deserves protection under the Endangered Species Act, yet only cooperative action of public and private interests can preserve this species.

The Gunnison sage grouse is a fascinating, elusive bird that lives on remote sagelands of the west. Once abundant, the Gunnison sage grouse is now found only in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. Less than 5,000 birds remain in the wild.

Gunnison sage grouse are highly sensitive to human impacts. Like other “lekking” birds, Gunnison sage grouse perform exotic displays on dancing grounds to attract mates.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently proposed to protect this species under the Endangered Species Act. While we wish previous conservation efforts had stopped the decline of this species, protection under the ESA may be necessary.

Private landowners and local working groups have led the way in voluntary conservation for the Gunnison sage grouse. Yet land management agencies, especially the Bureau of Land Management, must play a key role. It’s time for the BLM to propose a bold, effective plan to conserve Gunnison sage grouse on public lands.

Protection of Gunnison sage grouse would demonstrate that we value the unique features of the American West – vast sagebrush plains; habitat for deer, elk, and lizards; and a traditional ranching lifestyle.

Learn more about the enigmatic Gunnison sage grouse through the links below, or come to Colorado and view the fantastic mating display at Wuanita Lek!