The besmirched sage-grouse, a sort-of ugly, sort-of regal bird with breasts like oversized egg yolks and a violently spiky tail, may have no idea how often it is dodging the machinery of the human world: the federal and state governments, the barrels of guns, the pistons and pumps of oil rigs, bulldozers and cement mixers, too.
An almost-endangered variant of the bird, native only to California and Nevada, didn’t make the Interior Department’s cut for the truly-endangered-species list. The Colorado Wildlife Federation, a coalition of hunters, anglers and other nature enthusiasts is celebrating the omission. Keeping the Feds’ hands off of the sage-grouse gives states and private landowners control over how they use their property.
“A 2014 survey by the National Wildlife Federation found that nine out of 10 sportsmen and women in Colorado believe it is important to take action to take action [sic] to protect sage-grouse habitat within their state,” wrote the Colorado Wildlife Federation, so giddy for local action it stuttered in its press release.
“Moreover, 90 percent of hunters support steps by the Bureau of Land Management to protect critical sage-grouse habitat even if it means limiting energy development, grazing rights or access for motorized recreation on those lands,” the press release states.
Conservation advocates and biologists watching the sage-grouse characterize the Interior Department decision as just “another step in piece-mealing greater sage-grouse toward extinction,” as Bob Berwyn wrote at Summit County Voice.
“This decision is all about political expediency,” Erik Molvar of Wild Earth Guardians told Berwyn. Molvar said there is no real evidence that voluntary conservation measures have helped the birds in the Mono Basin of California and Nevada.
The parched, hot conditions in the West today pose a special risk to the bird, Molvar said. “If you get a couple of wildfires in there, you could be out of business.”
Photo Credit: Pacific Southwest Region, Creative Commons, Flickr.