Colorado submits groundbreaking sage grouse habitat protection program in advance of Sept. 30 listing deadline

September 17, 2015
Chandler Clay, (202) 572-3312,

Gov. Hickenlooper, in partnership with conservation groups, industry representatives, and agriculture leaders, today requested recognition by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management to establish the Colorado Habitat Exchange – initially focused on the greater sage-grouse.

“It’s inspiring to see Colorado ranchers, conservationists and business leaders coming together to put forth a solution for this iconic bird,” said Hickenlooper. “The Colorado Habitat Exchange will create a new market for voluntary conservation that will help protect the greater sage-grouse and sustain Colorado’s robust energy and agriculture economies.”

The Colorado Habitat Exchange works to engage ranchers in voluntary conservation efforts by offering financial incentives to create, maintain and improve habitat on their property. Landowners earn conservation credits for these activities, which they can sell to industry to compensate for development, such as roads, oil and gas facilities and other infrastructure that impact species and habitat.

“Either way the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision falls, the Colorado Habitat Exchange sets a strong precedent for conservation, both in Colorado and nationwide,” said Eric Holst, associate vice president of working lands at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). “Through collaboration, innovation and robust science, this program will unlock the vast untapped potential of Western working lands to work also for wildlife. It sends a clear signal to federal agencies and to the 10 other sage-grouse states that Colorado is prepared to lead the way.”

Earlier this year, Hickenlooper issued Executive Order D 2015-004 directing state agencies to conserve the greater sage-grouse. One component of the order directed the Department of Natural Resources to work with stakeholders to launch the Colorado Habitat Exchange as a mitigation option for companies impacting greater sage-grouse habitat in the state. Recognition by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management provides certainty to program participants.

“The sooner we can get federal recognition of the Colorado Habitat Exchange, the sooner we will be able to unlock new opportunities for Colorado ranchers to make sage-grouse conservation a part of their business models,” said Terry Fankhauser, executive vice president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. “The habitat exchange is a win-win for sage-grouse and for ranchers, who are natural stewards of these vital working landscapes.”   

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service faces a Sept. 30 deadline to decide whether or not the greater sage-grouse requires protection under the Endangered Species Act.

“No one wants to see this bird on the Endangered Species List, and this program is our best chance of keeping the bird off the list, now and in the future,” Fankhauser said.

More information is available at:

# # #

Environmental Defense Fund (, a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on EDF Voices, Twitter and Facebook.