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Western governors grouse about bird status

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Water scarcity, extreme weather, oil and gas development and endangered species are among the tough topics at the Western Governors' Association meeting this week in Colorado Springs, Colo.

According to Land Tawney, executive director of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, declining populations of greater sage grouse are intertwined with those issues. He believes keeping the species off the Endangered Species List can be accomplished. His group's new research shows that Wyoming got it right, with everyone sitting at the table to hash out pathways to move forward.

"Wyoming slowed down the decline," Tawney said. "They've given certainty to both oil and gas and to hunters and anglers that we can actually move forward with development and conserving habitat, and ultimately, the greater sage grouse."

A possible listing has sparked concerns not just for conservation and sportsmen's groups, but also for oil and gas developers, farmers and ranchers because it could result in conservation measures without much local input, and harm industries.

The greater sage grouse is found in 11 Western states, including in northwest South Dakota. According to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department, there are limited numbers of sage grouse due to lack of habitat. In the past, there has been a two-day season limited to state and federal public lands with a one-bird limit.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide by next year whether to list the species under the Endangered Species Act.