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US Fish & Wildlife withdraws proposed Endangered Species Act designation for bi-state Sage Grouse

| Suzy Johnson | Access Issues

The US Fish and Wildlife Service announce plans to withdraw a propose rule to extend Endangered Species Act protections to a distinct population of greater sage grouse found only along the California-Nevada border.

After a yearlong review of the bi-state Sage Grouse population, the FWS has determined that the threats are no longer as significant as was believed when FWS first proposed listing the bird as a threatened species in 2013.

FWS will also withdraw a proposed rule that would have designated thousands of acres of critical habitat for the bird, according to the notice. The final decision allows FWS to meet a court-ordered April 1 deadline to make a final determination on the status of the bi-state population. The decision will be formally published in the Federal Register.

Although similar to their greater sage grouse kin, the bi-state grouse were declared a distinct population segment in 2010, in part because they've been breeding separately from other sage grouse for thousands of years. There are six separate population segments across 4.5 million acres of high-desert sagebrush in the two states.

Environmental groups, noting estimates that only about 3,300 birds remain, have been petitioning FWS to formally protect the bi-state population for more than a decade.

The proposed listing would have severely restricted OHV recreation and events on public lands in Nevada and eastern California. The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest includes approximately 426,809 acres of habitat managed by the USFS. The BLM’s Nevada California Sage-Grouse habitat includes about 280,000 acres of public land located in Douglas, Esmeralda, Lyon, and Mineral counties in Nevada and Alpine and Mono Counties in California.

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