The Gunnison sage grouse, which lives only in western Colorado and southeastern Utah, has been declared threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This classification triggers the Endangered Species Act, which is something that Colorado leaders, who insist that state-led voluntary protection is sufficient to save the bird, have been fighting.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe declared the grouse officially threatened, which triggers Endangered Species Act protection. Federal protection under the Act restricts development on grouse habitat. Listing grouse as threatened, rather than endangered, allows exceptions for accidental killing to reduce the liability of landowners.
Governor Hickenlooper insists that the State will sue the Federal Government, no matter how the grouse is listed.
At present it is estimated that there are fewer than 5,000 Gunnison sage grouse alive, surviving on roughly 7 percent of their original natural habitat.