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A federal decision not to list the Gunnison sage grouse as endangered pleased Utah officials but dismayed some environmentalists.
The grouse once ranged throughout southeastern Utah but now is limited to areas near Monticello. It also has experienced a shrinking range in southwestern Colorado.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday announced that the bird's precarious situation could warrant its listing, though other priorities preclude such a listing. It's the same ruling that the agency made regarding the more widespread greater sage grouse earlier this year.
The effect of the ruling is that states will continue to have the lead in conserving the game birds whose habitat has been degraded by development and grazing.
"We all appreciate them leaving it in state management," said John Harja, public land policy coordinator for Gov. Gary Herbert. "We think the species is doing all right in Utah. It's surviving."
The American Bird Conservancy denounced the decision to put off listing the birds, and said all-terrain vehicle use is destroying habitat.
"The Gunninson sage grouse numbers fewer than 4,000 birds and occupies only about 10 percent of its historic range," conservancy President George Fenwick said in a written statement. "Placing this bird on the candidate list for endangered species protection at some unnamed point is an abdication of responsibility."
Previously, in 2006, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that listing the Gunnison sage grouse was not warranted. In Monday's decision, the agency said habitat fragmentation from residential and road development pose the biggest threats.