Protect Colorado Grouse

Protect Colorado Grouse

Protect Colorado grouse from Zinke’s repeal of conservation plans

On June 8, 2017 Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that he will be reviewing the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) conservation plans for the greater sage-grouse. These plans were the result of an unprecedented collaborative effort that included the BLM, state and federal wildlife agencies, state and local governments, private landowners, conservation groups, and other stakeholders. The end result was a west-wide science-based conservation plan that protects habitat and avoids the need to list the species under the Endangered Species Act. Zinke’s potential unwinding of this plan would destroy years of collaborative and cutting edge work, and put this species at risk of extinction.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has pushed back against this review stating that “wholesale changes to the land use plans are likely not necessary at this time.” His office has encouraged Secretary to not imperil the work that Colorado has done to date to protect this species.

Update: Secretary Ryan Zinke’s decision dismantles the sage-grouse protection plan

On August 7, US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke decided to dismantle the 2015 collaborative greater sage-grouse protection plan and open the door to various industry-biased changes to the plan.

The document outlining his recommended changes prioritized grazing livestock over critical habitat for grouse and gave power to the states to decide where habitat boundaries should be, rather than best-known science. The document also allows the states to prioritize oil and gas development above species and habitat protection.

The proposed changes could allow unfettered oil and gas development, ignoring scientific studies that have proven that drilling too close to sage-grouse leks prevent them from breeding – one of the many facts that led to their original decline to current numbers.

Secretary Zinke’s document also recommended establishing state population goals for the bird and attempting captive breeding, despite his own department’s findings stating that captive breeding didn’t work and habitat protection was the only method to avoid listing.

The one good portion of the proposal is that Secretary Zinke has committed to addressing rangeland fire, to combat invasive species grasses that degrade greater sage-grouse habitat, and to restore fire impacted areas.

How the proposal is executed will be the key. Governor Hickenlooper can maintain the protections outlined in the 2015 collaborative plans here in Colorado. Let’s let him know that we have his back. Please share this petition link, and encourage your friends to sign on.

Actions you can take

Sign the Change.org petition to thank Governor Hickenlooper for standing up to protect the greater sage-grouse and its iconic habitat in Colorado, and encourage him to stand strong for other lesser known species like the Gunnison sage-grouse.

Make a thank you video that we will post and send to Governor Hickenlooper for you. When you are finished with your message, send it to Chris at chris@rockymountainwild.org.

Feel free to make your message your own, but if you would like a general script or idea of what your message should say, here is some suggested language:

“Hi Governor Hickenlooper. My name is (your name), and I am a (your profession, hobby, or sport) from (your city and state). I wanted to thank you for standing up to protect the greater sage-grouse and their habitat. I would also like to encourage you to help protect the lesser known Gunnison sage-grouse, and ensure that Colorado’s conservation voice is heard during the BLM planning process.”

It’s best to add a secondary fact or opinion about the greater sage-grouse or the greater sage-grouse conservation plans that Hickenlooper took a stand on. Some potential talking points are:

  • These conservation plans were the result of years of collaborative effort
  • They provide a scientific basis for conserving habitat
  • Secretary Zinke has the ability to undo years of collaborative and cutting edge work
  • Plans protect the sagebrush sea ecosystem in northwestern Colorado
  • Concern about the current administration trying to open this area up to oil and gas development

We aren’t necessarily looking for a polished video. Feel free to take it on your phone.