Governor signs executive order to protect greater sage grouse

Photo of Gunnison sage-grouse near Monticello, Utah, undated | Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY – Gov. Gary R. Herbert issued an executive order Tuesday to help ensure a healthy, sustainable population for the greater sage-grouse.

The executive order ensures Utah state agencies do their part to prevent an endangered species listing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under court order to decide whether to list the greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act by September. A listing would limit many activities on Utah’s sagebrush lands and would be devastating to the state’s economy.

Utah is one of 11 states with greater sage-grouse. Four percent of the total bird population is found in Utah.

“Utah is committed to good environmental stewardship. Signing the executive order has to be done in a serious and thoughtful way, addressing the bird’s habitat, as well as the needs of society, private landowners and the economy,” Gov. Gary R. Herbert said, as quoted in a press statement released Tuesday. “Today is an important step forward for us and I believe it shows we are serious about protecting the Greater Sage-Grouse while balancing the best interests of the state.”

The State of Utah has already developed a conservation plan for greater sage-grouse that addresses the most significant threats to the bird population, according to the press release. It is a robust plan that protects 94 percent of Utah’s sage grouse and is based on decades of research and experience. A significant increase in greater sage-grouse numbers was documented following the first year of the conservation plan.

The governor’s executive order directs state agencies to minimize the impact of activities on sage grouse, consult with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources on decisions that could affect sage grouse habitat, incorporate directives from the conservation plan into state operations and report on Utah efforts.

Submitted by Office of Gov. Gary R. Herbert

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