Sportsmen rally for sage grouse and an iconic Western landscape
Hunters, wildlife advocates back plans to conserve grouse, sagebrush steppe
With a decision looming on whether to federally protect the greater sage-grouse, Western sportsmen and women are reaffirming their support for plans to conserve the bird and the sagebrush lands that support hundreds of species, local economies, hunting and other outdoor traditions.
The National Wildlife Federation and members of its affiliates support conservation efforts by private landowners and state and federal agencies to rebuild sage grouse numbers and head off the need to protect the bird under the federal Endangered Species Act. A new fact sheet, "Saving the Sagebrush Sea: An Imperiled Western Legacy," by NWF highlights wildlife dependent on the sagebrush steppe and sportsmen’s thoughts about the iconic Western landscape.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under a court-ordered, Sept. 30 deadline to decide whether the greater sage-grouse should be federally protected. NWF and other sportsmen’s and conservation organizations believe strong state and federal management plans coupled with ongoing work by private landowners offer a blueprint for saving the bird and providing certainty to people who use Western public lands, said Aaron Kindle, NWF’s Western sportsmen’s campaign manager.
"The Bureau of Land Management’s sage-grouse plans unveiled in May along with the state plans can be a lifeline for the species," Kindle added. "Sportsmen and women should get behind this broad-range plan. We have an obligation to ensure the future of sage grouse and the uniquely American landscape they call home, as well as the future of conservation in the West."
Here is what other Western sportsmen’s and wildlife groups are saying:
"As sportsmen and women, we understand the health of the sage grouse is tied to the health of the sagebrush steppe. We’re on the brink of deciding what we need to do to save the greater sage grouse because its habitat has been lost and degraded," Michael Gibson, Idaho Wildlife Federation executive director. "What’s happening to the sage grouse is happening to many other species, including deer, elk and pronghorns, and that means the potential loss of some of our most cherished wildlife and hunting opportunities. We need to conserve sage grouse and our sagebrush lands and maintain our hunting heritage."
"Not everyone appreciates the beauty of sagebrush country, but for those of us who live around it or spend a lot of time there, the sagebrush steppe defines the West as much as any snowcapped mountain peak. It’s teeming with the wildlife that everyone associates with the West. It’s important habitat for migrating birds and one of its best-known residents, the greater sage grouse, isn’t found anywhere else in the world. When we work to save sage grouse, we’re working to save a whole community of important Western creatures and a unique part of the world," said Dave Chadwick, Montana Wildlife Federation executive director.
"Most Westerners have a special relationship with the land. Whether they make their living off the land, like ranchers, or live to be out on the land, like hunters, anglers and hikers, Coloradoans care about conserving our diverse landscapes. The plight of the greater sage grouse is a loud warning that all is not right on the sagebrush steppe -- not only for grouse but for other wildlife, too," said Suzanne O’Neill, Colorado Wildlife Federation executive director. "Those who depend on the land for their livelihoods or recreate there have an obligation to make sure the sage grouse survives and that sagebrush country will be here for generations to come."
"Protecting sage grouse and the habitat where they reside is gravely important regionally as we look at landscape-scale challenges affecting wildlife management. Sage grouse depend on sagebrush ecosystems that also support many other fish and game species," said Robert Gaudet, president of the Nevada Wildlife Federation. "Habitat loss, invasive species, fire and other impacts have led to significant sage-grouse declines and lost hunting opportunities. We need strong conservation plans that protect key greater sage-grouse habitat while allowing responsible energy development, grazing and other activities on other public lands."