Interior Secretary Jewell & Gov. Hickenlooper Tour Sage Grouse Conservation Efforts Underway at Colorado Ranch
January 21, 2014
Commend Colorado Ranch Manager Ray Owens for Being Named Colorado’s Wildlife Landowner of the Year
CRAIG, CO – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper today visited northwestern Colorado as part of the Secretary’s commitment to working with states and private landowners toward developing conservation efforts for sage grouse in the region. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe and Bureau of Land Management Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze joined Jewell and Hickenlooper for a tour of the Bord Gulch Ranch, as well as for a stakeholder meeting with local landowners and officials.
After the ranch visit, Jewell commended its manager, Ray Owens, for the innovative conservation efforts to promote habitat for sage grouse that led him recently to being named one of two recipients of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) 2013 Wildlife Landowner of the Year award.
“Ray Owens is a model of the 21st century western rancher with his outstanding stewardship of this working landscape,” said Jewell. “He represents the spirit of partnership that can be replicated across the West as we develop landscape-level strategies to lessen the threats to the sage grouse and conserve its habitat.”
“The Bord Gulch Ranch is a terrific example of the significant progress made through public/private partnerships in conservation for the greater sage grouse,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said. “Some rural residents rely on access and productivity on public land as part of their livelihood. We thank everyone involved in the effort to protect and preserve this iconic species while providing for continued and future economic vibrancy for rural Colorado.”
Working with federal and state agencies, including the CPW, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Owens has implemented a variety of conservation actions that directly benefit the species on the 16,000-acre ranch. These conservation efforts include water projects, fencing, and other infrastructure improvements designed to improve habitat conditions for the bird.
“Ray has committed countless hours working on these projects in the field, in agency offices, and leading tours of his ranch to share his experience with others and lead by example,” Jewell said. “We have an opportunity to work together to develop and execute a conservation strategy, rooted in partnerships, that effectively addresses the threats to the sage grouse.”
The partnership of landowners is at the heart of a joint effort by the federal government and western states to develop and implement a landscape-level conservation plan for the sage grouse before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has to make a decision whether to protect the bird under the Endangered Species Act in 2015.
Two years ago, then-Secretary Ken Salazar and western governors formed the Sage Grouse Task Force to develop a cooperative approach to conserving the species across the West. This approach offers the best opportunity to conserve the species consistent with traditional land uses such as ranching and energy development.
Jewell emphasized that the development of this approach has reached a critical time, and that states in particular must work with private landowners and their federal partners to develop comprehensive strategies that can be demonstrated to reduce the threats to the bird and its habitat.
Additionally, Jewell and Hickenlooper earlier today met in Denver with representatives from the oil and gas industry, non-government organizations, and Colorado officials in a roundtable discussion of federal and state efforts to reduce methane emissions during the production, storage and transportation of oil and gas. As called for in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, Interior is working collaboratively with state governments, as well as the private sector, to reduce emissions across multiple sectors, improve air quality, and achieve public health and economic benefits.
The Sage Grouse Initiative is a partnership-based, science-driven effort that uses voluntary incentives to proactively conserve America’s western rangelands, wildlife, and rural way of life. This initiative is part of Working Lands For Wildlife, which is led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.