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After reading the latest news in the greater sage-grouse conservation effort, it seems high time for Colorado’s decision makers to lead on this important issue. As a state, we are facing a unique but narrowing window of opportunity to develop a proactive state conservation plan that would both protect the iconic bird and avoid an Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing.
The good news is that declines in greater sage-grouse populations have lessened in the past 20 years, with some populations even increasing. Also, both the environmental community and energy industry seem to be on the same page on the basics of this issue. For instance, all agree that an ESA listing of the greater sage-grouse would have enormous impacts for all who use our public lands—from recreationists, sportsmen and ranchers like myself, to rural communities, energy companies and private landowners. Meaningful action by Colorado and other western states is therefore clearly the best way forward.
That’s why it is so disheartening to read about the foot-dragging by Colorado, while states such as Wyoming and Oregon actively advance state conservation plans. Even the leaders of Moffat County, Colorado have demonstrated positive action, inviting Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell out to see the county’s conservation efforts first-hand. Now it is time for Colorado’s state leaders to step up.
Governor Hickenlooper should bring all sides together to advance a balanced state conservation plan. This should include setting aside the most critical habitat for long-term protections and addressing the most immediate threats to the grouse. More flexible management practices can then be implemented in the remaining habitat areas. The sooner we tackle these challenges with reasonable and forward-looking solutions, the better off all stakeholders will be.