- Joe MeyerDistrict Manager, Southwest District Office, Bureau of Land Management
Protect Gunnison Sage-Grouse Habitat Before it is Gone
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This is Gunny. Gunny is one of the last remaining Gunnison sage-grouse in the world. Gunny and his friends once ranged widely across southwest Colorado and Utah. Today, however, they occupy just 10% of their historic range, and number fewer than 5,000. Without our help to protect their habitat this iconic symbol of our western heritage could become extinct in our lifetime.
40% percent of current Gunnison sage-grouse habitat is on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM manages this land for multiple uses, including one that has proven extremely detrimental to Gunny – oil and gas development. The drilling, roads, traffic, lights, sound, and pollution caused by oil and gas development fragments habitat, destroys mating and nesting grounds, and disrupts the fragile balance of the sagebrush ecosystems. Gunny is a tough bird, but he can’t stand up to that kind of pressure.
Over the next several months the BLM will be updating its land-use plans to include improved safeguards for Gunnison sage-grouse. Through this process we have the opportunity to protect key habitat that is crucial to the survival of this species.
Please sign our petition asking the BLM to protect critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse. This action will protect more than 93,834 acres of the most important habitat for six small and incredibly vulnerable populations of Gunnison sage-grouse in Southwest Colorado. Protecting these sub-populations will help preserve the genetic diversity of the species, and safeguard against catastrophic events that could wipe out the whole species.
By taking action, you will help to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to enjoy watching the Gunnison sage-grouse dance at sunrise, and benefit all of the other species including antelope, songbirds, owls, and coyotes, that call this area home. Go ahead - give Gunny something to dance about!
- District Manager, Southwest District Office, Bureau of Land Management
Dear Mr. Meyer,
We encourage you to protect important habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse through the Gunnison Sage-Grouse Draft Resource Management Plan Amendment process. We feel that Gunnison sage-grouse are an important part of the web of life in southwest Colorado. Protecting Gunnison sage-grouse habitat will benefit wildlife, keep our public land healthy, and make southwest Colorado a better place for future generations.
This process is an important opportunity for BLM to take decisive action to protect the most important habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse. Many groups are working together to address threats to Gunnison sage-grouse to reach a point where the species no longer needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act. This effort will not succeed unless the BLM puts in place additional and more effective conservation measures for Gunnison sage-grouse than are in the current draft plan.
Please implement the improvements recommended by the biologists at Rocky Mountain Wild and their partner organizations to improve the plan. The plan must adopt conservation measures that are at least as protective as those adopted for the closely related greater sage-grouse. While some improvements are needed in Gunnison Basin, it is critical for the plan to increase protections for the six small populations of Gunnison sage-grouse living outside of the Gunnison Basin. BLM should, at a minimum:
• Completely protect occupied critical habitat from major development (roads, oil and gas development, transmission lines, mining, renewable energy development etc.). Provide the maximum protection possible where there are existing development rights.
• Protect occupied habitat by designating Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs), including the nominated Dry Creek Basin and Northdale ACECs.
• Set clear targets for habitat improvement (including net reduction in existing infrastructure) and restoration of historically occupied habitat.
• Permanently or seasonally close roads that are negatively impacting Gunnison sage-grouse as soon as possible. Implement immediate interim closures of high impact routes.
• Completely protect leks, breeding, nesting and winter habitat from noise and human disturbance during seasons of use.
• Reduce predation through measures other than predator control (such as increasing hiding cover, reducing infrastructure that facilitates predation, and removing unnatural predator food sources.
Please put in place the safeguards outlined above to protect habitat essential for the survival of the six small Gunnison sage-grouse populations outside of the Gunnison Basin. The birds within the six small populations outside of the Gunnison basin collectively make up a significant number of individuals that provide insurance against extinction in case of catastrophic unforeseen losses possible in the Gunnison Basin.
These populations are also critical to maintaining the genetic diversity of the species. Much of the last remaining habitat for these small, vulnerable populations is on public land and is not adequately protected from oil and gas drilling, construction of roads and power lines, and many other threats. These populations will be lost if the BLM does not protect the habitat they need to survive. In addition, put in place safeguards to ensure that the only stable population in the Gunnison Basin remains stable. Protecting these critical habitats will help to prevent extinction of Gunnison sage-grouse, and benefit many other species that depend on the same habitat, including rare and imperiled wildflowers, songbirds, elk, mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep.
Thank you for your consideration of our comments. We hope that BLM will do what it takes to help ensure that future generations have the opportunity to be inspired by watching the Gunnison sage-grouse dance at sunrise.
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