Gunnison Sage Grouse recovery plan

Concerns about a one-size-fits-all approach

By Cayla Vidmar

After losing their case in federal district court to remove the Gunnison sage grouse from the federal endangered species list, Gunnison County and its litigation partners decided not to pursue an appeal, and instead are focusing efforts on a recovery plan—the public process for which begins next week in Delta.

The county has worked for more than 20 years to foster a healthy population of Gunnison sage grouse in the area, but in 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service added the Gunnison sage grouse to the list of endangered wildlife as threatened, and designated 1.4 million acres in Colorado and Utah as critical habitat for the bird.

Late last year, after the court ruling to keep the bird listed as threatened, the county decided to refocus efforts on a recovery plan instead of appealing the court ruling. Gunnison Board of County Commissioners chairperson Jonathan Houck announced Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife (USFW) will hold a meeting on Tuesday, April 23 in Delta from 4 to 6 p.m. to begin outreach in anticipation of the release of the draft recovery plan in 2019.

However, Houck raised some concerns about the plan becoming a “one-size-fits-all” model that doesn’t work in the unique Gunnison valley.

Houck explained that the court order requires the recovery plan to be done by October 2019. “With the timeframe we’re on and because of staffing issues the Department of Interior has, I’m concerned this is going to be a one-size-fits-all plan, which is not beneficial to us—the Gunnison Basin is a completely different place,” Houck explained.

While Houck notes he hasn’t seen the draft recovery plan yet, he’s been making sure the county input reflects the 20-plus years of effort in protecting the species, and the collaboration between the county and the USFW.

County representatives are planning to attend the meeting in Delta.

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