Gunnison Sage GrouseThe sage grouse population has exploded in the last two years, growing by nearly two-thirds from more than 49,000 males in 2013 to more than 80,000 this year.

That’s according to a new study by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and reported on by Greenwire.

This is encouraging news for the bird, and for the people whose lives would be turned upside down by the federal government if it still insists on listing the critter as an endangered species on the brink of extinction.

The report considered the population across the bird’s 11-state habitat, with specific news on the growth in Colorado numbers:

The high count for males this spring in Colorado was 6,400, the highest ever counted in the Centennial State and about 50 percent above the previous year, said Kathy Griffin, statewide grouse coordinator at Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Griffin said northwest Colorado, home to about 4 percent of the nation’s sage grouse, had a mild winter and good moisture in the spring, similar to the conditions of the previous year. “Some momentum is building,” she said.

The report falls on the heels of a gloom and doom forecast by environmentalists, who insist that male populations have decreased by half.

State wildlife officials said the report cherry-picked just the years of decline — 2007 marked a major peak in sage grouse populations, and 2013 could be a trough, they said. To identify long-term population trends, state officials recommended looking at how past peaks and troughs compared to the most recent peaks and troughs.

What remains to be seen is which report the government will take into account when making its listing decision in September – the cherry-picked account commissioned by Pew Charitable Trusts, or fish and wildlife experts.