Tell the Bureau that it must commit to strong conservation of Gunnison sage-grouse habitat

Gunnison sage-grouse
Photo by Bob Gress,

The Gunnison sage-grouse is a beautiful bird known for its entrancing mating dance. Each spring, males gather on lekking grounds, puff out their chests, and fan their tails to impress females. But the species is in grave peril.

A sagebrush obligate species, Gunnison sage-grouse is one of the most imperiled bird species in the United States. Fewer than 4,000 birds exist. Only 10% of the species’ historic range in Western Colorado and Eastern Utah remains and continues to shrink. The Bureau of Land Management (The Bureau) manages 40% of the species’ total habitat and 60% of the largest occupied habitat in the Gunnison Basin located in Western Colorado. 

Although listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened in 2014, the bird has continued to decline. One of the reasons is that current Bureau management plans for areas containing habitat are not strong enough to put the species on a recovery path.  

The Bureau has put together a draft Gunnison sage-grouse conservation and is asking for feedback. The draft plan is a good idea, but for it to have a chance of working, it must prohibit any further disturbance of remaining habitat and aggressively restore substandard habitat.

You can help! Tell the Bureau of Land Management that it must commit to strong conservation of Gunnison sage-grouse habitat to halt the trajectory towards extinction and promote recovery.

Comments are due February 6.

Sample Letter

Before you start, check out Rocky Mountain Wild’s Guide to Writing Comments That StickCómo Escribir Comentarios Que Dan En El Blanco.

Our partners have shared a sample letter with us, but please be sure to write your comment in your own words. Copy and paste comments don’t get counted as individual comments:

I urge you to adopt Alternative 2B as the conservation plan for Gunnison sage-grouse. Alt 2B ensures strong conservation of all Gunnison sage-grouse occupied and unoccupied habitat as well as linkage-connectivity management areas. 

Recovery of this iconic Western Colorado and Eastern Utah species requires the Bureau of Land Management to adopt stronger protections than proposed in its preferred alternative. With only 10% of its historic range intact and that number continuing to shrink, it’s imperative that the Bureau prioritize management that keeps habitat intact, ensures connectivity, and restores habitat integrity. 

The Bureau’s conservation plan for Gunnison sage-grouse must among other things: 

  • Prevent any further disturbance to satellite populations. Avoid disturbance to the core population and mitigate all unavoidable disturbance at a 5:1 ratio (or greater). 
  • Withdraw occupied, unoccupied, linkage-connectivity management areas, and non-habitat areas including 4-mile lek buffers from all forms of entry under the public lands mineral locatable, leasing and saleable laws. 
  • Manage public lands to maximize protection and connection of habitats so the birds are less genetically isolated. 
  • Ensure grazing is managed compatibly with Gunnison sage-grouse recovery. Require timely completion of land health evaluations, establish vegetation monitoring programs, update standards to be consistent with the best available science, and enforce seasonal grazing and grass height guidelines for all grazed areas. 
  • Emphasize restoration of natural hydrologic processes to keep water on the landscape from headwaters to receiving waters. 
  • Designate road and trail systems so they are protective of Gunnison sage-grouse. 
  • Apply the protections to linkage-connectivity habitat that are applied to occupied and unoccupied habitat areas. Eliminate surface disturbing and excessive noise-producing activities in “non-habitat areas.” 

Protecting and recovering the Gunnison sage-grouse is very important to me. Now’s the time for the Bureau to ensure management of our public lands furthers this species’ recovery and does not contribute to its further decline. Thank you for considering my comments.

Other facts you could include:

  • The Gunnison sage-grouse (GuSG) is a beautiful bird with an entrancing mating dance.  With less than 4,000 in existence, it is one of the most imperiled bird species in the United States. Current range is Western Colorado – about 10% of its historic range and continues to shrink. Its range includes southeastern Utah, but no lekking grouse have been observed there in several years.
  • It has one core population in the Gunnison Basin and seven very small satellite populations with bird counts in the single or double digits; two satellite populations may have already winked out. 
  • Its decline is due to habitat loss or degradation. Residential development, agriculture, grazing, energy and minerals extraction, and recreation are the leading causes.
  • The solution is protecting every bit of habitat left, especially in the satellite populations, and connecting habitat so the birds do not become genetically isolated.
  • The Bureau has put together a draft conservation plan for the habitat for which it is responsible (about 42% of all the habitat), and it is asking for public comment. It is really important that people ask for the strongest protections possible – no more disturbance to remaining habitat and aggressive restoration of sub-standard habitat.
  • The good thing is that the people of Colorado really care about this beautiful bird and want to save it. If we all rally together we can prevent this bird from going extinct. Right now, the Bureau needs to do its part and commit to strong conservation.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.