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Saturday, October 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Wildfires reinforce case for Greater Sage-grouse endangered status

A male sage grouse, right, tries to impress a group of hens near the base of the Rattlesnake Range in southwest Natrona County, Wyoming, in 2014.  (Alan Rogers/AP)
A male sage grouse, right, tries to impress a group of hens near the base of the Rattlesnake Range in southwest Natrona County, Wyoming, in 2014. (Alan Rogers/AP)
By Wire reports

OLYMPIA – Biologists at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimate that recent wildfires have burned tens of thousands of acres of Eastern Washington sage-grouse habitat adding to the reasons that the department is recommending endangered status for sage-grouse in Washington through its periodic status review processes.

Such reviews periodically assess the status of protected species and recommend status changes if warranted. The designation change from threatened to endangered would increase current levels of protection to promote the survival of sage-grouse in the state.

Habitat loss is the single-greatest threat to greater sage-grouse and is exacerbated by the immediate threat of wildfire.

While WDFW staff may not know the full impacts to grouse populations until spring, they estimate that recent wildfires may reduce the number of threatened greater sage-grouse by 30-70% bringing the statewide population dangerously low.

“The fires have caused a devastating setback to recovery of sage-grouse populations in Eastern Washington,” said Mike Livingston, south-central regional director with the agency. “Vast acreages of shrub-steppe habitat just burned, and surviving birds are more vulnerable to predators and winter conditions,” he adds.

The draft periodic status review for greater sage-grouse is available for review at WDFW’s species status review webpage. The public can provide comments on the draft document for the next 90 days, the time period required by Washington Administrative Code, through Dec. 30.

Written comments on the review and recommendation can be submitted via email to TandEpubliccom@dfw.wa.gov or by mail to Taylor Cotten, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, P.O. Box 43141, Olympia, 98504-3200.

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