Act Now to Protect the Greater Sage Grouse
The sagelands out West have taken on increasing importance in recent years, especially for sportsmen and women. We travel and enjoy these lands in a variety of ways from interacting with wildlife to spending time with our families. Yet these areas are also critical to the lives of numerous game species, such as the greater sage grouse.Unfortunately, sportsmen and women are also firsthand witnesses to a landscape and a species in trouble. Overgrazing, mining, housing developments and widespread energy development are removing and degrading the sagelands at a rapid pace, thus pushing the iconic sage-grouse close to being listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This would bring wide-ranging restrictions and threaten the diverse partnerships that have formed across the West seeking to collaboratively save the bird.
The broad, austere sage steppe is home to more than 350 wildlife species. Sportsmen overwhelmingly agree that wildlife like the greater sage-grouse need to be protected, but the means to that end is all over the map.
The Bureau of Land Management, the agency in charge of most of the sagelands across the west, has the unenviable task of protecting the landscape that supports the sage-grouse in the face of a never-ending onslaught of development pressure, increased usage, and political winds that shift almost daily. Something must be done and the BLM has to do it. Otherwise, the ESA listing will come and we’ll all be scrambling to decipher what it all means and how we’ll ever get back to the west we know and love.When I was a young boy, I often traveled with my father across the Red Desert of Wyoming during his field work. The sage sea rolled endlessly in front of our eyes while the sights, sounds, and smells captured my imagination and my heart. I knew even then that these places were not something everyone got to experience and that even fewer truly appreciated them.
The BLM recently offered us a lifeline. We now have a blueprint for how to protect the bird, prevent an ESA listing, and perhaps bring this bird back to healthy, huntable levels. Their new plan protects the most critical areas such as leks which are sage grouse mating areas, and the plan lays out a strategy to prevent and mitigate damage from wildfires and invasive species.
Sportsmen and women should get behind this far-reaching plan. We have an obligation to ensure the future of this bird and the uniquely American landscape we call home. Together, let’s conserve the West for the future.