The range of the Gunnison Sage-Grouse is very limited in western Colorado and southeast Utah. Only one area of range land is inhabited by the Gunnison Sage-Grouse in Utah. An area of approximately 10,900 acres in San Juan County Utah has been designated as a global IBA for this unique species. Elevation averages 6,725 feet (2,050 m). San Juan County is the only county in Utah where Gunnison Sage-Grouse populations are currently known to occur and this population is currently believed to be isolated from the Gunnison Sage-Grouse populations in Colorado.

The area occupied by Gunnison Sage-Grouse in San Juan County requires special and continuing protection. With low numbers and limited range, private landowner cooperation is essential and contingent on eliminating trespass. Limited viewing opportunities for Gunnison Sage-Grouse are available at specific seasonal times. For more details, contact the Public Affairs Officer for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in Price. The phone number is 435-636-0260.

Stewards: San Juan County Gunnison Sage-grouse Working Group
c/o Todd Black
Utah State University
1415 Old Main Hill
Logan, UT 84322

Ornithological Summary

The area is recognized as a Globally Important Bird Area. Total range-wide, breeding populations of Gunnison Sage-Grouse are estimated at 3,000 to 4,000 individuals. Due to the limited range and limited numbers of this species, it is listed internationally by BirdLife International as a Global Species of Conservation Concern. The Gunnison Sage-Grouse population in San Juan County has decreased over the last 36 years. In 1972, 175 males on leks were counted and the population was estimated at 580-1050 individuals. In 2008, 44 males were counted on leks and the population was estimated at 145-260 individuals. There are indications of increases with current protection and habitat enhancement.

The San Juan County/Gunnison Sage-Grouse IBA is also qualified based on bird species that are on the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources sensitive species list including Gunnison Sage-Grouse, Burrowing Owl, Ferruginous Hawk and Bald Eagle. Counts for Burrowing Owl ranged from 8-15 between 2001 and 2004. Winter counts of Bald Eagle ranged from one to four from 2001 through 2004. The Partners in Flight priority species include Brewer?s Sparrow and Sage Sparrow. Some bird species covered in the state Wildlife Action Plan, such as the Sage Thrasher, are present on this site. However, full survey counts on these birds have not been conducted. Other important fauna include the Gunnison?s prairie-dog that is listed on the Utah Division of Wildlife Utah Sensitive Species List.

Conservation Issues

In 1996, the San Juan County Gunnison Sage-Grouse Working Group (SWOG) was formed to identify and implement community-based conservation strategies to reverse the decline of local Gunnison Sage-Grouse populations. SWOG completed a conservation plan in November 2000. The Partners in SWOG have worked on numerous conservation efforts that have assisted the Gunnison Sage-Grouse.

Much of the land is in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which temporarily prevents the farming of these areas. The areas qualified for the CRP program because of the importance of the land to wildlife, particularly Gunnison Sage-Grouse. UDWR worked with the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to get these lands into the program. A majority of the mineral rights in the area belongs to the federal government and the BLM is postponing the leasing of any of the lands for oil and gas until more studies, information, and protective measures becomes available and are implemented for the Gunnison Sage-Grouse. To prevent more sagebrush habitat from being converted to farmlands, UDWR and BLM have purchased two conservation easements which will provide protection for sage-grouse in perpetuity for approximately 2,565 acres. Habitat restoration projects have also been a priority to restore sagebrush habitat in drought stricken and previously plowed lands.

Land Use

Estimated % of cover for the proposed site include:
45% agriculture
20% hunting
100% nature/conservation
10% tourism/recreation

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