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As we have written before, the Greater Sage Grouse is on the verge of extinction in Canada, likely due to habitat loss related oil and gas development. Prompted by litigation, the federal government finally issued an Emergency Order to protect the grouse in December 2013.

In January 2014, experts gathered at the Calgary Zoo to discuss reversing the decline in the sage grouse population through a captive breeding program. Last week the Zoo welcomed 11 sage grouse chicks, hatched from eggs gathered in the wild.

A captive breeding program is among the recommendations in Alberta’s Greater Sage Grouse Recovery Plan. The original plan, for 2005 – 2010, failed to halt the decline and the revised plan recommends further recovery actions including:

  1. Restore, and prevent further loss of, identified critical habitat in the Alberta range through immediate implementation of updated land use standards, identified Conservation and Development Zones and enhanced land stewardship.
  2. Increase suitable habitat available for sage-grouse through accelerated reclamation of industrial developments and restoration of marginal annual cropland.
  3. Reverse population decline in the Alberta range through population augmentation, predator management, and habitat remediation. By 2018, the Alberta population will show a positive trend in the number of strutting males at leks and the number of active leks.

The cost to implement the recovery plan is approximately $2.9 Million, while the breeding program is an estimated to cost $5.3 million, $4.2 million of which will be funded Environment Canada and Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. Hopefully this funding signals both greater financial and political commitment to saving the Sage Grouse. It would be truly tragic to knowingly allow the extinction of this or any species.

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