•  
  •  
 

Abstract

Since 1995, sage-grouse (Centrocercus spp.) conservation planning in the western United States has largely been based upon local working groups comprised of federal, state and local governments, environmental groups, landowners, interested citizens. In this article, we review the history and process of these local working groups in western Colorado. These groups are generally convened by one or more government agencies, operate on the general principle of consensus, and have little or no administrative or financial support. The local working groups were generally comprised of field biologist, rancher/landowners, members of local environmental groups and occasionally representatives from local governments. The plans they generated were based upon consensus, therefore difficult issues were often bypassed in order to keep the plan development process moving. The early success of a number of these local working groups resulted in sage-grouse conservation plans such as the Gunnison Sage-grouse Conservation Plan, which provides sage-grouse conservation guidance for the Gunnison Basin in South Central Colorado. However, there were problems such as an undefined membership, lack of administrative support, and achieving consensus. The Gunnison County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) created an entirely new approach to the local work group concept. The Gunnison Basin Sage-grouse Strategic Committee (GBSGSC) was created, with appointed (by the BoCC) representatives from the federal land management agencies, the state wildlife agency, the neighboring county, the ranching community, the environmental community, the development community, the recreation community, and the public at large. Formal operating guidelines were adopted by the BoCC. Specific membership criteria were identified. Administrative staff from Gunnison County was assigned to the Committee. Importantly, the BoCC determined that, though consensus was an admirable goal, this Committee would operate under majority rule. The GBSGSC has been meeting monthly since 2005.