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County decides not to pursue appeal in federal sage grouse decision

Looking at other ways to recognize county efforts

By Cayla Vidmar

The Board of Gunnison County Commissioners has decided not to appeal the federal court decision to keep the Gunnison sage grouse on the endangered species list as threatened.

The county intends to move forward with the recovery plan with the Colorado Department of Fish and Wildlife (CFW), and the listing should not impact ranchers or recreation more than it already has.

Earlier this fall, Gunnison County, the Gunnison Stockgrowers Association, the state of Colorado, the state of Utah and Utah’s San Juan County lost their case in federal district court when a judge ruled to keep the Gunnison sage grouse on the endangered species list. This ruling more severely restricts what can be done on sage grouse habitat, but Gunnison county commissioner Jonathan Houck notes that since 2014, the sage grouse has been listed, even through the litigation process the county was pursuing, and subsequently lost.

“After conferring with litigation partners, we have decided, along with them, to pursue other options to both preserve and protect the species while at the same time promoting other options to recognize county efforts that have preserved, protected and promoted viability of the Gunnison sage grouse,” says deputy county attorney Matthew Hoyt.

“Let’s focus on the things we can influence now, which is the recovery plan. There has been a lot of scientific agreement that the populations in Gunnison are stable, and have actually been increasing slightly over the years,” says Houck. “Though I still have some disagreements on the judge’s assessment, I’d rather work with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and engage more in the recovery planning. We made a commitment to work and protect this bird for 20 years, and I don’t want to lose that traction,” he says.

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