Nearly 3 Dozen Utah Bird Species Placed on Watch List

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Nearly three dozen bird species that spend time in Utah are in trouble, according to a new report.

The National Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy recently released a watch list of birds in America that are or could soon be in danger. The groups say their assessment was a comprehensive analysis of population size and trends, distribution and threats facing 700 bird species in the country.

The report cites 178 species in the continental United States and 39 in Hawaii. Of these, 59 on the continent and 39 in the island state are on the "red list" of greatest concern, and 119 are on the "yellow" list, which means birds in danger of landing on the red list.

Utah has five on the red list, 29 on the yellow.

"You in the Intermountain West are in pretty bad shape," said David N. Pashley, a vice president of the conservancy.

He said some of the most difficult problems in Utah concern pressure on birds that live in sagebrush habitat, including the Gunnison grouse and the sage grouse, which are both listed, Pashley said.

Pashley blames the invasion of cheatgrass, wildfires and the impact of grazing, oil and gas development.

"That system's in trouble these days," he said.

John Flicker, president of the National Audubon Society, said the sagebrush ecosystem in the West is one of the most threatened ecosystems in the country. He pointed to energy development as causing damage to the ecosystem.

Butcher said the Gunnison sage grouse has one population in Utah and several small groups in Colorado.

"Both species (the Gunnison and greater sage grouses) are suffering from a deterioration in the sagebrush ecosystem," he said, explaining that "excessive" natural gas development in Colorado and Wyoming are contributing to declines in that habitat.

Information from: Deseret Morning News

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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