A decision to list the Gunnison sage-grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act could hurt the bird more than help it, says the director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “Placing the bird under the oversight of the federal government will greatly reduce our ability to help the bird,” says Utah DWR Director Greg Sheehan.

Found mostly in southwestern Colorado, a small number of Gunnison sage-grouse also live in San Juan County in southeastern Utah. On November 12, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that, despite years of work in both states, the bird warrants listing as a threatened species.

“Putting the bird under the management authority of the federal government will create roadblocks that will make it difficult to complete work to help the species,” he says.

For example, if the Utah DWR wants to partner with a landowner and a federal agency – to complete a habitat project to help the grouse – they can’t simply launch into the project and do the work. Instead, the project now has to go through a federal review process that Sheehan calls “tedious and time-consuming.”

Sheehan says work has been underway since 1996 to help Gunnison sage-grouse in San Juan County. Those efforts include the establishment of local working groups. The groups have brought landowners, local government officials, state and federal agencies, and universities together to work on cooperative research and habitat projects to help the birds.

“We’re disappointed that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believes that extensive conservation efforts in Utah and Colorado aren’t sufficient enough to protect the species,” Sheehan says. “The USFWS hasn’t given many of these efforts the time needed to show the efforts work.”

Sheehan praised the work local government officials, landowners and farmers have done to help the species in San Juan County. “We appreciate the work local government officials, landowners and farmers have done to try to avoid this listing by the USFWS,” he says. “Landowners and farmers are the key to helping the species.”