In spite of appeals from local governments including Delta, Montrose and Gunnison counties for a 60-day extension into May, comment on proposed endangered species listing for the Gunnison sage grouse will be extended only until April 2.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to list the bird as endangered.
A companion rule would designate 1.7 million acres as critical habitat, much of which the bird does not presently occupy.
The Delta Board of County Commissioners joined in seeking the 60-day extension citing, in part, significant impacts to counties and communities that would come from restrictions imposed on designated habitat lands.
The Gunnison sage grouse species was "discovered" using a method involving intensive genetic DNA analysis, and the bird's existence as a unique species has been questioned.
The federal government sees critical habitat designation as a "cooperative" and relatively benign rule where it regards private landowners. In practice though, any activity that can be shown to have caused even a single bird death may be sanctioned under the critical habitat rule. That rule, along with additional expense, management effort, and the pall of uncertainty and liability it casts over landowners will affect ag practices and other economic activity throughout the entire critical habitat range.
Private landowners and local governments have for more than a decade spent considerable time, effort and money on prescribed habitat enhancements for the bird, understanding that the effort would forestall an endangered listing. But that understanding may be over now.
A Delta resident, Sonny Carpenter, grew up in Gunnison County where two generations of his family had preceded him. He recalls that in the early 1960s, government land management agencies came into the area and made wide-scale applications with DDT to remove unwanted flora. That event began the decline of the sage grouse, Carpenter said, from which the bird has never recovered.
"I'd seen 1,500 to 2,000 roosters at a time back in 1955," Carpenter told the DCI. "Then for 30 years they'd throw you in jail for killing a sage chicken."
The USFWS is expected at some point to announce a second comment period to also accept comment on economic aspects of the critical habitat designation.blog comments powered by Disqus