Center For Biological Diversity Seeking Protection For Sooty Grouse Species

The following press release is courtesy of the Center For Biological Diversity:

Petition Seeks Endangered Species Act Protection for Mount Pinos Sooty Grouse

OJAI, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity submitted a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today seeking Endangered Species Act protection for California’s Mount Pinos sooty grouse. The species, known for hooting from treetops, has been driven out of most of its habitat in recent decades.

The grouse was historically found in high-elevation forests and meadows from the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains southward into the “sky island” mountains of Southern California, including the Tehachapi Mountains and Mount Pinos region of Ventura County. Today the species only survives in a dwindling portion of the Sierra Nevada.

“The lovely Mount Pinos sooty grouse could easily go extinct without immediate federal protection,” said Brian Segee, endangered species legal director at the Center. “These captivating birds have already disappeared from Southern California, including their namesake Mount Pinos, and without protection their remaining populations could be lost forever.”

Mount Pinos sooty grouse have declined due to logging, livestock grazing within meadows they need for brooding and raising their young, fire suppression resulting in elevated fire risk, and loss of high-elevation forest and meadow habitat due to climate change. Continued hunting of grouse within their remaining range poses an additional threat.

Unlike other North American species such as sage grouse that participate in communal courtship displays, male sooty grouse are strongly territorial. Individual male birds hoot from the tops of tall trees to attract females. Hooting sites are typically located in massive fir or pine trees and are returned to for generations.

Although Mount Pinos sooty grouse populations are shielded from habitat destruction and hunting within the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks portion of their range, other grouse habitat within Sequoia and Inyo national forests remains open to logging, grazing and hunting. The species has already been eliminated from Los Padres National Forest.

“Federal land managers have taken no meaningful action to protect dwindling Mount Pinos sooty grouse populations,” Segee said. “Endangered Species Act protection will bring them the attention, resources and legal help they need to survive into the future.”

Sooty grouse are comprised of four subspecies, ranging from the western slopes of the coastal mountains of British Columbia and southeastern Alaska southward through the Cascade-Coast mountains of Washington, Oregon and California, and the Sierra Nevada southward into the Transverse mountain ranges of Southern California. The Mount Pinos sooty grouse is the southernmost of these subspecies and is believed to be the only subspecies to have suffered regional extirpation and significant range loss.

Sooty grouse. Used with permission from James Bland. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.