For sage grouse, not a nickel’s difference between Bush and Obama


Sage grouse don’t vote. If they did vote, they’d have a difficult time picking between Democrats and Republicans on their own life and death issues.

Of course, there aren’t enough sage grouse to make much of a difference on election day. That’s the problem.

Courting sage grouse - Gail Patricelli, UC-Davis

Courting sage grouse - Photo from Gail Patricelli, University of California - Davis

Last week the U.S. Department of the Interior released a decision on the fate of the sage grouse:  Near enough to extinction to merit protection under the Endangered Species Act, but too far down the list of endangered plants and animals to merit action on anything at the moment.

That means that the vanishing habitats of the little, magnificent bird, can be crushed by trucks making tracks across westerns prairies, deserts and mountains searching for oil.

Exxon-Mobil 1, Sage Grouse 0.  One might must hope that’s an early game score, and not the population counts.

Jim Tankersly explained the situation, more dispassionately, in The Los Angeles Times:

Reporting from Washington — The Interior Department declared Friday that an iconic Western bird deserves federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, but declined to offer that protection immediately — a split decision that will allow oil and gas drilling to continue across large swaths of the mountainous West.

The department issued a so-called “warranted but precluded” designation for the greater sage grouse, meaning that the bird merits protection but won’t receive it for now because other species are a higher priority.

My childhood was marked by rapidly plummeting bird populations all around us.  Stopping the use of DDT benefited some of them, the Endangered Species Act benefited others.  Conservation efforts of groups like Ducks Unlimited and the Audubon Society saved others, and helped all of them.  While I lived near a great river, a view of a heron, egret or crane is not what I recall from my childhood.  Our children know the birds well.

Land birds, like turkeys, are even more rare.  Turkeys, mostly in eastern forested areas, at least well out of the Mountain West, made dramatic recoveries with massive aid from state game commissions.  I recall one column from the Washington Post’s recently retired hunting and outdoors columnist, Angus Phillips, in which he confessed that with the aid of professional guides paid from the paper’s expense accounts, in more than 15 years of hunting he had heard, but never seen, a wild turkey. This was two weeks after we had come upon a flock just off the side of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, the first I’d ever seen.

I remembered Phillips’ confession a few months later as I sat in the cold, at dawn, in a field at the Land Between the Lakes preserve of the Tennessee Valley Authority with other staff and members of the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors, when a guide summoned seven magnificent, lustful wild turkey toms to race across a field toward the lustful hen sounds the guide made with a part of a birth control diaphragm as a calling device.

In my years tramping the west for fun, in the months camping with the Scouts, in the professional tramping with the Air Pollution Lab and the Senate and the Utah Wilderness Commission, and just for fun, I’ve never seen a sage grouse.

Whether my children get such an opportunity, and their children, is a decision for the moment left to private interests, especially private groups with a financial stake in trampling out the nestings where the youth of grouse are grown.

Exxon-Mobil, will you and your colleagues go easy on the grouse, please?

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4 Responses to For sage grouse, not a nickel’s difference between Bush and Obama

  1. [...] grouse non-listing: USDA offers $16 million to protect the birds Remember the sage grouse? People groused because the U.S. Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service determined most [...]

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  2. [...] For sage grouse, not a nickel's difference between Bush and Obama … [...]

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  3. chamblee54 says:

    “Of course, there aren’t enough sage grouse to make much of a difference on election day. That’s the problem.”
    Maybe they should form a P.A.C.

    Like

  4. Nance says:

    Two favorites on this post: the diaphragm turkey call device and “trampling out the nestings where the youth of grouse are grown.”

    Like

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