GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) – Ten Western Colorado area counties have united to maintain local control of conservation efforts of a rare bird that was classified as a species in 2000.

Mesa County this week signed the memorandum of understanding on Gunnison sage-grouse conservation efforts that includes nine Colorado counties and San Juan County, Utah. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel Saturday reports that the counties are sharing data, strategies, plans and tools to foster a “rangewide persepctive” to protect the bird.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing adding the bird to the endangered species list and designate 1.7 million acres as critical habitat in those counties. The comment period on the proposal ends Tuesday.

Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca says counties can do a better job than Washington to protect the bird.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)