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Gunnison Sage-grouse presentation set in Saguache

Posted: Wednesday, Jan 30th, 2013

Gunnison Sage-grouse

SAGUACHE The Northern SLV Conservation Roundtable will hold an educational presentation on the Gunnison Sage-grouse and its recent proposed Endangered Species Act listing Thurs. Feb. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the Saguache Road & Bridge meeting room, 305 Third St., Saguache. Jenny Nehring, coordinator for the Gunnison Sage-grouse (GUSG) Poncha Pass Working Group, will be guest speaker.

Gunnison Sage-grouse were recognized as a new species of bird (different from Greater Sage-grouse) in 2000. Conservation efforts for this species have been ongoing since 1995. This presentation will include background information about the species in general as well as specific information on the Poncha Pass population. Q&A during/following the presentation. Refreshments will be served. For more information: 719-221-8434 barb@olt.org.

On Jan. 13 the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed the Gunnison Sage-grouse for listing as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The GUSG is only found in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. There are a total of seven separate populations of this species, two of which are in Saguache County. The western portion of Saguache County is part of the Gunnison Basin population. The Gunnison Basin population is the largest and most stable population of GUSG with approximately 5,000 birds. About one-third of the total population (1600) and one-third of the habitat for the Gunnison Basin population is in western Saguache County. At the northern end of Saguache County, one of the smallest populations of GUSG resides at Poncha Pass. The Poncha Pass population is currently estimated to be about 15 birds that occupy the sagebrush habitat from the summit of Poncha Pass south approximately 15 miles and on both sides of Hwy. 285. The sagebrush habitat used by GUSG at Poncha Pass has been identified as critical habitat in the proposed rule.

In the FWS proposed rule, critical habitat was also identified and was mapped to include all currently occupied and suitable habitat. The proposed rule for endangered status and the critical habitat boundaries are not final. The FWS listing process allows for a 60-day comment period and a re-evaluation of the species status before making a final decision. Comments may be sent to the FWS until March 12, and a final rule will be announced on September 30.

The story of GUSG is a unique one and the Poncha Pass population has an especially storied history that includes transplant efforts and accidental hunting seasons. GUSG are a unique species of bird and in 2000 became the first new North American bird species in over 100 years as recognized by the American Ornithological Union.

Come learn about this fascinating species and conservation efforts involved in protecting it.

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