The Greater Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) has been denied federal protection. After a formal review, the US Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that it will not gain protection under the Endangered Species Act. A population and habitat status survey was conducted in the eleven US states that the Greater Sage Grouse ranges. Most information was based on monitoring done since 1965. It was found that between 1965 and 1985, populations decreased an average of 3.5% per year. Since 1986, the decline has slowed to 0.37%.
The historic range of the Greater Sage Grouse included 16 US states and three Canadian provinces. Currently, this has dwindled to 11 US states and two Canadian provinces. It is estimated that in 1800, about 1.1 million birds existed. Today, the USFWS estimates the population to be 100,000 to 500,000. The National Audubon Society has their own count, currently at 142,000.
Population decline is greatly attributed to the devastation of habitat. Fires, agriculture, well drilling, plant invasion, and urbanization have all contributed to a decline in sagebrush, which is heavily depended on for food and cover.
Since there will be no federal protection for the Greater Sage Grouse until a further review process, recovery plans are being coordinated at the state level. Canada has already taken action: the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) declared this bird endangered in 1998, and it was listed in the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Public Registry in 2000. The Western Governor’s Association has more information on each state’s conservation efforts.