State reviewing protections for sharp-tailed grouse, pygmy rabbits

State reviewing protections for sharp-tailed grouse, pygmy rabbits

Conservation Northwest / May 01, 2018 / Restoring Wildlife, Sagelands

Protection of two iconic  species found in Washington’s sagelands under review.

The state protection status of two iconic shrub-steppe species is under review by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW): the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse and the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit.

WDFW is accepting public comments until May 9th via email at:

Both species and their habitats are very important components of a unique ecosystem that we believe must be protected, connected, and restored for this and future generations to enjoy. Both are also priority species for our new Sagelands Heritage Program.

A pygmy rabbit in Washington. Photo: John Marshall / WDFW

As such, we have filed an official comment with WDFW to maintain the endangered status of the pygmy rabbit, which declined from a half-dozen small populations to only one in recent years. The loss of nearly half of the existing state population of these rabbits in last year’s devastating Sutherland wildfire points to the justification of the current listing.

The Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission will also soon be considering up-listing the status of Columbian sharp-tailed grouse from Threatened to Endangered as this rarest of six grouse subspecies  only exists in eight scattered populations in the state and in precariously low numbers in some of those locations. We strongly support the up-listing of this rare species to endangered status.

Public comment can still be given to the commission at their meetings leading up to that decision. Check the commission webpage for public hearing dates on this listing and locations of those meetings!

Learn more about our work for these species through our Sagelands Heritage Program and the collaborative Working for Wildlife Initiative!

Male sharp-tailed grouse in a mating display. Photo: USFWS