Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to examine conservation efforts being implemented across the west for the Greater Sage-grouse. I appreciate your attention and dedication to highlight locally-driven conservation programs that are doing exactly what they have been created to do: conserving a species without the added mandates imposed by the Endangered Species Act.
Mr. Chairman, Colorado is in a unique position with regard to conservation efforts for candidate species. In 2000, the mountain plover was a candidate species for the Endangered Species list. The Colorado Division of Wildlife and many dedicated individuals worked diligently to conserve approximately 350,000 acres of private land for research and conservation. Through their continued efforts, the species has not been listed. The recovery of the mountain plover is a great example of how locally-driven conservation programs work, and I want to ensure that these successful programs are continued throughout the west.
As we will surely hear from some of our witnesses today, locally-driven conservation efforts are the best way to effectively manage candidate or threatened species. The worst thing that can be done for these species is to support a blanket approach mandated from Washington, DC that would supplant locally-driven plans. Specifically in regard to the Sage-grouse, conservation strategies have been developing over the past eight years in Colorado. To negate local level studies for an all-encompassing national plan not only goes against sound science, but takes a step backward from protecting the species. I agree with Colorado’s Northwest Resource Advisory Council’s resolution providing suggestions for the Bureau of Land Management conservation strategy for the Sage-grouse. They comment that, “The federal government should clearly acknowledge that different approaches to species recovery and habitat management will likely be different throughout the country.” Attention needs to be given to local management strategies.
Locally-driven conservation approaches take into account land management and multiple use standards critical to landowners in the area, rather than blocking owners from their property as can be done when a species is listed on the Endangered Species list. Existing land uses should not be compromised because of the Sage-grouse, but conservation plans should be developed with a multiple use guideline to the extent possible conserving the species. Any national Sage-grouse habitat conservation strategy should work with existing land uses to manage Sage-grouse and Sagebrush habitat, and possible conflicts should be resolved at the local level through planning groups that take into account local concerns, and not by mandates from Washington.
Locally-driven conservation programs have a history of working, especially in Colorado. I look forward to finding ways to help sustain these conservation efforts, and to help the local land owner who voluntarily assists in the conservation efforts of the Sage-grouse.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to discuss this important issue.