Utah and several other western states are working on plans to protect the sage grouse, with the goal of keeping the birds off the federal endangered species list. Those plans have to be acceptable to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and it's just issued a draft report that could give the states some guidance. Noreen Walsh, the deputy administrator for the Fish and Wildlife Service's Mountain Prairie Region, says it addresses the different circumstances such as energy development, predators and urban growth that threaten the sage grouse population across its 11-state range.
"It's our hope," she says,"that this report will help those states, as well as the federal land management agencies, to really focus their plans on the actions that will really help the threats that are really most impacting this species right now."
John Harja with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food says the guidelines could allow Utah to set priority areas where it will make extra efforts to protect the sage grouse while allowing additional development in areas such as the Uintah Basin.
Harja told KUER, "I don't know that anybody seeks to eliminate a population," he says, "but it does allow that each state can choose areas for protection, for enhanced focus for enhanced conservation, and allows that other areas may be affected by other things, like oil and gas or housing developments."
Utah's working group on the sage grouse is expected to issue its report soon to Governor Gary Herbert as a basis for state action to protect the sage grouse, which occupies only about ten percent of its historic range across the West.