Environmentalists sue federal government over Gunnison sage grouse

Photo: Gunnison sage grouse
A front view of the threatened Gunnison sage grouse.

Three environmental groups have filed suit alleging the federal government is not doing enough to protect the Gunnison sage grouse, found in western Colorado and Utah.

WildEarth Guardians filed one suit and the Center for Biological Diversity and Western Watersheds Project filed another in U.S. District Court in Denver on Tuesday.

The groups say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in November 2014 inaccurately deemed the Gunnison sage grouse as threatened instead of endangered. They say threats to the bird’s survival are clear and ongoing.

"From a scientific perspective, we must stop dithering and impose, real, enforceable protections for the bird today," Dr. Clait Braun said in a news release from WildEarth Guardians.

Others have criticized any federal protection, saying it threatens jobs. They add conservation efforts are restoring habitat for the bird. In November, state political leaders including Gov. John Hickenlooper, former Sen. Mark Udall, Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Scott Tipton all condemned the designation as overreach that could affect oil and gas development.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it can’t comment on litigation.