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For Immediate Release, March 5, 2010

Contact: Rob Mrowka, (702) 249-5821 or

Mono Basin Sage Grouse Is Endangered, But Protection Once Again Delayed

LAS VEGAS— In response to a petition and lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental and faith-based groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that a population of the greater sage grouse found in the Mono Basin of California and Nevada warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act, but that such protection is precluded due to lack of resources.

“Continued delay of protection for the Mono Basin population of sage grouse is a recipe for extinction,” said Rob Mrowka, an ecologist at the Center. “To date, the Obama administration has not improved on the Bush administration’s progress in providing protection to the nation’s most endangered species.”

During his eight-year tenure, Bush protected a mere 62 species, for a rate of fewer than eight species per year. This compares to 522 protected under Clinton, or 65 species per year, and 231 species protected under George H.W. Bush, or 58 species per year. With only two species listed so far, the Obama administration appears to have flatlined on listing. Under the Endangered Species Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service can only delay protection of species if it is making expeditious progress listing other species considered a higher priority for listing.

“Delaying protection for Mono Basin sage grouse is clearly illegal and irresponsible,” said Mrowka.

The Mono Basin area population of sage grouse is the southwestern-most population of the greater sage grouse and is geographically isolated from other sage grouse populations. It is found in Storey, Carson, Douglas, Mineral, and Esmeralda counties in Nevada and in Mono, Alpine, and Inyo counties in California. “Because the Mono Basin population of sage grouse exists at the periphery of the sage grouse range and is genetically unique, it contains characteristics that may well be critically important to the survival of the species as a whole, particularly in light of climate change,” said Mrowka.

Primary threats to Mono Basin sage grouse include degradation of habitat by livestock grazing and invasive noxious weeds, fragmentation of habitat caused by development, roads and transmission lines, ORV use, drought, and loss of sagebrush due to the encroachment of junipers. Sage grouse are also still hunted in Nevada and California. Populations have declined up to 70 percent.

Like other sage grouse, Mono Basin sage grouse are noted for their elaborate spring courtship rituals and displays. Males and females gather on traditional display areas called leks. Males strut, fan their tail feathers, and produce a haunting sound from air sacs located on the sides of their necks to attract willing females. An average of six to seven eggs are laid and incubated for around 30 days.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 255,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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