The greater sage-grouse is found in 11 of the 19 Western Governors' Association member states -- California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming -- and two Canadian provinces. In all, its range stretches across 257,000 square miles.
The bird was listed as “warranted but precluded” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2010 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). In 2011, the FWS reached settlement agreements that require the agency to reach a “warranted” or “not warranted” decision for the greater sage-grouse Sept. 30, 2015.
Western Governors are committed to conservation of greater sage-grouse and assert that the breadth and depth of voluntary conservation efforts across the region, if allowed to run their course, will provide the bird with the necessary habitat to live and thrive. The Governors believe that a listing of the greater sage-grouse by FWS will diminish the amount of new voluntary conservation work undertaken and have a significant, negative economic impact across the West.
Sage Grouse Task Force
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper are co-chairs of the Sage-Grouse Task Force, which includes designees from the 11 western states as well as representatives from the FWS, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Forest Service, United States Geological Survey and Department of Interior. The task force works to identify and implement high priority conservation actions and integrate ongoing actions necessary to preclude the need for the sage-grouse to be listed under the ESA.
The Sage Grouse Task Force was formed shortly in 2011, following a meeting co-hosted by Gov. Mead and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to discuss range-wide sage-grouse conservation among the 11 sage-grouse states and four federal agencies. Following the meeting, Secretary Salazar sent letters to each of the sage-grouse state governors asking for a report and recommendations on how to best move forward with a multi-state conservation sage-grouse plan. The Task Force has since met multiple times annually since 2012.
In 2011 WGA partnered with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) to identify existing state and local actions to conserve sage-grouse. They published an inventory of these actions in December 2011. Since then, WGA has published annual updates to that report in 2012, 2013 and 2014 with updated explanations of initiatives to conserve sage-grouse. The 2014 Sage-Grouse Inventory Appendix collects all initiatives reported by the relevant states and counties between 2011 and 2014.
The report shows that state and local governments are engaged in a range of activities to conserve sage-grouse and its sagebrush habitat. The states have set forth a variety of protections for the species, including partnerships developed by local working groups, conservation plans, executive orders and agency guidance. County governments have also pursued conservation mechanisms, most often working in partnership with state and federal governments through local working groups.