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

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October 22, 1997
Contact: Margaret Ainscough, (360) 902-2408

Comments sought on protection changes for sage and sharp-tailed grouse

OLYMPIA -- The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking public comments on a proposal to add sage grouse and sharp-tailed grouse to its list of threatened species.

The public review period begins tomorrow and continues through Jan. 23 on draft reports which outline the two species' decline and recommend changing their status from candidates for protective status to threatened species.

The status change is recommended because biological surveys show both bird populations 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 Okanogan counties.

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

Copies of the species status reports are available at public libraries, WDFW headquarters in Olympia and WDFW regional offices. Written comments on the reports may be mailed to Harriet Allen, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia 98501-1091.

After the public comment period ends, state biologists will prepare final status reports and State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) documents, which will be available for public review. Public meetings will be held on the reports before final recommendations are presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission next April.

The WDFW maintains a list of threatened, endangered and sensitive state species separate from the list maintained by the federal government. Presently, there are 23 endangered, nine threatened and two sensitive species on the state's list. Threatened species are those considered likely to become endangered unless preventive steps are taken.

Although WDFW works with landowners to encourage habitat protection, it does not have regulatory authority to control land use in order to protect habitat.