The Greater Sage-Grouse, a species listed as “warranted but precluded” on the Federal Endangered Species List, is found throughout the interior West. Eleven of WGA's 19 member states provide habitat to the sage-grouse – habitat that often intersects with lands ideal for energy development and rangeland agriculture.
The Governors have adopted policy urging the U.S. Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to support state and local efforts in implementing their conservation plans at this critical juncture.
The Western Governors produce an annual inventory of state and local conservation measures for sage-grouse. Several successful initiatives are already in place, including an array of local working groups.
Sage Grouse Task Force
Governors Mead (WY) and Hickenlooper (CO) are co-leading a Sage-Grouse Task Force with BLM Acting Director Mike Pool 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 Endangered Species Act in 2015. The group includes designees from the 11 western states as well as representatives from BLM, USFWS, NRCS and USFS.
The Sage Grouse Task Force was formed shortly after a December 2011 meeting co-hosted by Governor Mead and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to discuss range-wide sage-grouse conservation among the eleven sage-grouse states and four federal agencies. Following the meeting, Secretary Salazar sent letters to each of the eleven 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 met three times in 2012, including two in-person meetings. On June 29, the group transmitted a brief report to Secretary Salazar and the Western Governors that outlines a consensus process for delivering range-wide conservation measures. These actions were deemed necessary by the Task Force to ensure the sage-grouse does not warrant an ESA listing in 2015.
Western states have been coordinating on sage-grouse conservation for decades. 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. As a result, they published an inventory of these actions in December 2011. Most recently, a 2012 update the inventory report was released, with new and updated explanations of initiatives to conserve sage-grouse.
The report shows that state and local governments are engaged in a range of activities to conserve sage-grouse and sage-grouse 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.
At the direction of the Sage Grouse Task Force, the report will be republished annually through 2015 in order to inform the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's annual review of the status of the species.