The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced this week that it will extend for six months a final decision on whether to list the Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and whether to designate 1.7 million acres in Colorado and Utah as critical habitat for the species.

In January of this year, the Service proposed listing the Gunnison sage-grouse as an endangered species and designating critical habitat for it.  As we previously reported, the Service subsequently extended the comment period from March 12 to April 2, 2013.  The Service planned to make a final listing determination on September 30, but this week’s announcement has deferred a final determination until March 31, 2014.  The public comment period has also been reopened until September 3, 2013.

The Service stated that more time was required to consider additional scientific information recently received, noting that “substantial disagreement” exists regarding the interpretation of scientific literature on matters such as population trends, the effectiveness of local regulatory protections, and the threat posed by future residential development within the species’ range.  According to the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Regional Director, Noreen Walsh: “[The Service] heard loud and clear from many people invested in Gunnison sage-grouse conservation that there is additional scientific information we should consider during our decision-making process….  In order to consider that information and make use of the best available science, we are extending the timeline on our final decision on how to best conserve this important sagebrush species.”