DENVER – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Monday afternoon a six-month extension for a final decision on a proposed rule to provide Endangered Species Act protection for the Gunnison sage grouse and a proposed rule that would designate areas of southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah as critical habitat for the bird under the Act.
Fish and Wildlife is taking the action, according to a press release, in response to additional scientific information recently received and to public comments before making a final determination on these rules. Publication of the announcement reopens the public comment period on the proposed rules for 45 days.
Both proposed rules had initial public comment periods that ended April 2, 2013, with a date for making final determinations set for Sept. 30, 2013. Fish and Wildlife is now extending the timeline for the decisions by six months, until March 31, 2014. The reopened public comment period will end on Sept. 3, 2013.
“We 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,” said Fish and Wildlife Mountain-Prairie Regional Director Noreen Walsh. “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.”
During the first public comment period, Fish and Wildlife received information indicating substantial disagreement regarding the interpretation of scientific literature, and literature that may not have been fully considered. This information includes Gunnison sage-grouse population trends, the scope of and effectiveness of Gunnison County’s regulatory mechanisms in addressing threats to Gunnison sage-grouse, projections about the extent of future residential development within the range of the species, and what constitutes historical habitat and important current habitat for the species.
Details regarding the information Fish and Wildlife is seeking are available in the notice announcing this extension, which publishes on July 19, 2013, in the Federal Register. Anyone may obtain copies of this notice and the proposed rules on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2012-0108 for the proposed endangered status for Gunnison sage-grouse; or Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2011-0111 for the proposed designation of critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse. Copies of the extension notice and the proposed rules are also available at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/birds/gunnisonsagegrouse/.
Fish and Wildlife will accept written comments and information during this extended comment period and will consider information and recommendations from all interested parties. Anyone who previously submitted comments or information on the proposed rules should not resubmit them; they have already been incorporated into the public record, and the Service will fully consider them in the preparation of its final determinations.
Anyone wishing to submit comments may do so by one of the following methods:
Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the search box, enter the appropriate Docket No: Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2012-0108 for the proposed endangered status for Gunnison sage-grouse; or Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2011-0111 for the proposed designation of critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse. Then, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, check on the Proposed Rules link to locate the proposed rule. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!”
• By hard copy:
For the proposed endangered status for Gunnison sage-grouse, submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R6-ES-2012-0108; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.
For the proposed designation of critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse, submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R6-ES-2011-0111; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.
Fish and Wildlife will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov; this generally includes any personal information provided to the Service with the comments.