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FWS Extends Comment Period for Greater Sage Grouse


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A Greater sage grouse lek near Bodie, California. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has extended the comment period for its proposed rule to list the bi-State distinct population segment (DPS) of greater sage grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (Credit: Jeannie Stafford/USFS).

A Greater sage grouse lek near Bodie, California. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has extended the comment period for its proposed rule to list the bi-State distinct population segment (DPS) of greater sage grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (Credit: Jeannie Stafford/USFS).

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently announced plans to extend the public comment period for the proposed rule to list select populations of the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The rule applies to the bi-state distinct population segment (DPS) of the greater sage grouse in parts of California and Nevada — originally proposed for listing in October 2013 because of threats facing the population such as invasive plants, habitat fragmentation due to renewable energy and urban development, mining, and climate change. FWS recently received new information related to the Bi-State Action Plan, which included sage grouse population trends, recent State and Federal agency funding, and staffing commitments for various conservation efforts and, therefore, called for additional public comments.

The DPS is part of an overall 11-state population, which faces similar threats. In 2010, FWS found that the entire 11-state population warranted protection under the ESA, but further action was precluded by species facing more immediate and severe extinction threats.

Debate over whether state management or federal protection is most appropriate for the sage grouse continuous to be contentious amidst House and Senate legislation to either delay ESA listing or increase state management programs as an alternative to federal listing. In May, for example, Representative Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced the Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act (HR4716) — a bill to delay the listing of the sage grouse by a decade and require individual states to create sage grouse conservation management plan. Recently the House Appropriations Committee approved a fiscal 2015 spending plan for the Interior Department that includes a stipulation that would delay the decision to list the sage grouse by one year.

Last month, Senator John Walsh (D-MT) introduced the Sage-Grouse Accountability and Private Conservation Act of 2014 (S2575), which calls for transparency by FWS in listing species in the ESA and would increase support for programs that work with ranchers and private landowners to protect greater sage grouse habitat. The bill aims to focus conservation management at the state level rather than the federal level in the hopes that the bird does not have to be federally listed as threatened.

Written comments on the proposed rule to list the Bi-State DPS of greater sage grouse must be submitted by September 4, 2014.

Comments may be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov  under Identification number FWS-R8-ES-2013-0072. By hard copy, submit to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2013-0072; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

Sources: Federal Register (August 5, 2014), Energy and Environmental News PM (August 4, 2014), Energy and Environmental News (July 11, 2014), Congressman Gardner Press Release (May 22, 2014)

Related TWS articles: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gets Extension on Gunnison Sage-Grouse Listing (May 2014), Comment Period Extended for Greater Sage Grouse (April 2014), New Baseline Environmental Report on the Greater Sage Grouse Released (June, 2013), BLM Sage Grouse Management Ruffles Feathers (August 2012), BLM Failed to Analyze Grazing Impacts to Sage-Grouse, Judge Rules (March 2012)



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