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WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE     Print Version
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091


February 23, 1998
Contact: Margaret Ainscough, (360) 902-2408

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Final public comments to be taken on grouse protection

OLYMPIA -- The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is taking final public comments from March 1 through 31 on two proposals that would add sage grouse and sharp-tailed grouse to the state list of threatened species.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to take action on the proposed protection reclassifications at its April 3 and 4 meeting in Wenatchee.

A final report has been completed outlining the two species' decline and recommending increasing their protection status. Copies of the final status reports and a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Determination of Nonsignificance are available upon request from Customer Service, Wildlife Management Program, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia WA 98501-1091. Written comments on the final report may be mailed by March 31 to Harriet Allen, Endangered Species Section Manager, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, at the above address.

A three-month comment period and seven public meetings were held on the preliminary version of the proposal.

The WDFW maintains a list of threatened, endangered and sensitive state species separate from the federal government's list. Although WDFW works with landowners to encourage habitat protection, it does not have regulatory authority to control land use in order to protect habitat.

Presently there are 23 endangered, nine threatened and two sensitive species on the state list. Endangered species are those in danger of becoming extinct; threatened species are considered likely to become endangered unless preventive steps are taken, and sensitive species are those which are vulnerable, show declining numbers and are in danger of further deterioration.

The change in grouse status is recommended because biological surveys show both bird species have declined dramatically as their native eastern Washington habitat has diminished. Sage grouse, historically found in 16 counties in eastern Washington, now number fewer than 1,000 birds residing only in Douglas, Grant, Yakima and Kittitas counties. Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, the rarest of six North American sub-species of sharptails, once were plentiful in eastern Washington, but have been reduced to 700 to 1,000 birds in scattered pockets of Douglas, Lincoln and Okanagan counties.

The birds' decline is primarily due to loss of their native shrub steppe and meadow steppe habitat due to agricultural use, sagebrush removal, intensive grazing and removal of streamside vegetation.