Sage-grouse Conservation in Washington: 2013
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Sage-grouse Conservation in Washington: 2013

Category: Threatened and Endangered Species

Date Published: March 2014

Number of Pages: 55

Author(s): Colleen M. Stinson and Michael A. Schroeder


The greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is the largest North American grouse species. Historically, greater sage-grouse were distributed throughout much of the western United States in 13 states and along the southern border of three western Canadian provinces. Currently, greater sage-grouse occur in 11 states and two provinces in the western United States and Canada (Stinson et al. 2004).

Greater sage-grouse inhabit shrub-steppe and, as their name implies, are closely associated with sagebrush. Wyoming big sage (Artemesia tridentata wyomingensis) and three-tip sage (Artemesia tripartita) are the most important sagebrush species to sage-grouse in Washington.

Greater sage-grouse were listed as a threatened species by the state of Washington in 1998. In May 2001, the Washington population of greater sage-grouse also became a Candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined that the greater sage-grouse in Washington constituted a distinct population segment (DPS–50 CFR 17) and that their listing as Threatened was warranted but precluded by higher listing priorities (USFWS 2001). In March 2010 the USFWS determined that the range-wide listing of greater sage-grouse under the federal ESA was warranted but precluded due to higher listing priorities. Consequently, range-wide they are now considered a Candidate species (USFWS 2013).

In 2011, the implications of an ESA listing of greater sage-grouse prompted a meeting between the Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and the governors of 11 western states where the species occurs. The purpose of the meeting was to address coordination of conservation of the greater sage-grouse across its range. The primary outcome of the meeting was the formation of a Sage-Grouse Task Force (Task Force) to develop recommendations to: 1) advance a coordinated multi-state, range-wide conservation strategy, 2) ensure the long-term viability of the species, and 3) preclude listing of greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The USFWS, with the backing of the Task Force, created a Conservation Objectives Team (COT) of state and USFWS representatives to define the degree to which threats need to be reduced in order to ensure that the greater sage-grouse was no longer in danger, or likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future, and thus avoid the need for ESA listing (USFWS 2013).

This report is an update to the greater sage-grouse (hereafter referred to as sage-grouse) distribution and population in Washington State and a progress report on the conservation actions as outlined in the 2004 state recovery plan (Stinson et al. 2004).

Suggested Citation:
Stinson, C. M., and M. A. Schroeder. 2014. Sage-grouse conservation in Washington: 2013. Wildlife Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, Washington.