Male Gunnison Sage-GrouseOn Monday, September 27, 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued its determination that the Gunnison sage-grouse warrants listing under the Endangered Species Act, but that proposing that it be listed as threatened or endangered be postponed while the Service addresses the needs of higher priority species.

Historically, the Gunnison sage-grouse occupied southwestern Colorado, southeastern Utah, northwestern New Mexico, and northeastern Arizona.  But according to the Fish and Wildlife Service, its range has been reduced to seven separate populations in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah (pdf).  Of the approximately 4,500 breeding Gunnison sage-grouse, some 3,900 inhabit the Gunnison Basin in Colorado.

In 2006, the Service determined that listing was not warranted.  An ensuing legal challenge resulted in a consent decree in which the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to undertake a 12-month status review.  The September 27, 2010 "warranted-but-precluded" finding is the outcome of that 12-month status review.

Now that the Gunnison sage-grouse has been added to the list of candidate species, the Fish and Wildlife Service must review its status annually.  Currently, landowners in Colorado may voluntarily undertake conservation measures under the terms of a "Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances" (CCAA) issued to the Colorado Department of Wildlife by the Fish and Wildlife Service.  Under the terms of the CCAA, landowners who undertake specified conservation measures receive assurances that if and when the species is formally listed, the federal government will not place additional new restrictions on the use of their property for the protection of the sage-grouse.