September 30th is the deadline for the US Fish and Wildlife Service to decide whether the Greater Sage-grouse requires protection under the Endangered Species Act. Various powerful interests are strongly opposed to such protection. Congress has been throwing a fit, with so many anti-grouse provisions put forward that it is hard to keep track of them all. I *think* USFWS is currently not allowed (due to an amendment to a budget bill or something) to actually spend funds to establish protections for the grouse, but they still plan to announce whether they are needed.
Here's a nice summary of the current situation:
I think at this point a listing is unlikely. They recently decided that a small isolated population of the species didn't need federal protection because a local voluntary effort is expected to eventually benefit the birds. This was highly publicized as a "win" for conservation, even though it's almost literally a case of counting chickens before they hatch.
Over the last few months the feds have been heavily promoting a similar voluntary program (the Sage Grouse Initiative) that has begun operating throughout the Sage-grouse's range. Given the political climate, the risk that protecting the grouse could further fuel the backlash against the Endangered Species Act itself, and the fact that their decision to protect the rarer Lesser Prairie-chicken was recently thrown out by a judge, I suspect that USFWS will decide that the Greater Sage-grouse does not need protection.
I wonder how long it will be before the population declines enough to allow another lawsuit to get the species listed?