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Beating extinction for Gunnison grouse

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Thanks for airing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s dirty laundry. Not listing the Gunnison sage grouse as an endangered species is mind-boggling (HCN, 6/12/06: On a wing and a prayer). This is an administration that wouldn’t have listed the passenger pigeon as endangered, if they’d had the chance.

San Miguel County, home to the most viable satellite population of Gunnison grouse, is joining various environmental groups to sue the Service over its failure to provide federal protections. Why? Because the bird is losing habitat all over its range, its numbers are dwindling in many places, recovery programs have so far been unsuccessful or uncertain of benefit, and oil and gas development and housing growth, twin dangers to the bird’s survival, are rampaging across the West.

The good news is that state and federal agencies in Colorado are not using the non-listing decision as an excuse to throw the grouse’s fate to the winds. No, agencies and local governments, ranchers and enviros are doing what they can to tip this bird back from looming extinction. Now we just have to get the White House’s attention.

Art Goodtimes
Telluride, Colorado

The writer is a San Miguel County commissioner.

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