Sage-Grouse

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Sage-Grouse

Sage-Grouse plan's official signing Monday

If you go

What: Northwest Colorado Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan

Where: Bureau of Land Management Little Snake Field Office in Craig, 455 Emerson St.

When: 5:30 p.m. Monday

• Anyone interested is welcome

— Work and then play. At least that's the plan for the Northwest Colorado Greater Sage-Grouse Working Group, which for 12 years negotiated and compromised on ways to mitigate development impacts on native sage-grouse.

The Working Group - which included representatives from Moffat County, area residents, energy industry interests, the Bureau of Land Management, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and other government agencies - plans to have an official signing party at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the BLM Little Snake Field Office in Craig, 455 Emerson St.

The event is open to the public.

"It's been a lot of work," BLM Wildlife Biologist Tim Novotny said. "There was a lot of varying interests presented at the table, and I think it made it a challenge to create something we all agreed to."

But, the group did find a unanimous compromise, Novotny said.

The resulting Northwest Colorado Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan is a collection of voluntary initiatives landowners and developers can use to secure local sage-grouse populations and habitats.

Working Group members - including residents and DOW officials - have said the plan is a good way to show locals are committed to preserving the native species.

They added that following the plan's steps with good faith would reduce the chance of U.S. Fish and Wildlife finding the need to put sage-grouse on the threatened or endangered species lists.

Local conservation plans, members said, would be more beneficial to the area than federal involvement.

Fish and Wildlife is reviewing the greater sage-grouse situation for listing, and plans to have a decision ready by December, said Diane Katzenberger, Fish and Wildlife spokesperson.

If the agency deems a listing is required, Katzenberger said, then developers and landowners would be obligated to consult with Fish and Wildlife wherever personal or commercial activity might damage the bird's population or habitat.

What steps Fish and Wildlife would require from there are not set in stone but are a result of each case's individual situation, Katzenberger said.

"The mitigations are all determined through the consultation," she said. "If a species is listed as threatened (as opposed to endangered), that allows a certain amount of managerial latitude."

There are many different criteria involved in the consultation, including type and scope of development.

"Or, if there are a lot of projects in place and yours is 15 down the list," Katenberger said, "we have to consider how much development has already happened and how much more the area can sustain without damage to species populations."

Working Group representatives said they want as many people to sign the local Conservation Plan as are interested, saying the more signatures the plan gets, and the more locals support the plan, the less likely Fish and Wildlife will see a need to list native sage-grouse.

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