Greater Sage-Grouse One
The name for this column is a fun double or triple pun: the author is supposedly sage but inclined to eschew political correctness. Nonetheless, the Greater Sage-grouse, Centrocercus urophasianus, a big fat slow-flying bird (which in my opinion bears no more resemblance to chickens than plump pheasants or partridge) requires much serious analysis.
What and who am I to comment on Greater Sage-grouse? Well, first I know how to properly hyphenate the name.
I have been a game bird hunter for many decades, but I decided five years ago to stop shooting sage-grouse. Four reasons: First, I make enough money that I do not need to eat sage-grouse to survive; what a relief. Second, they don’t taste very good; I can find a lot of ways to set a better table. Third, they reproduce slowly and are under a lot of stress and why should I add to their stress level? Fourth, the game and fish agencies allow shooting of hens during hunting season, a practice which is not allowed for the introduced Chinese Ring-necked pheasant; why do we protect pheasant hens and slaughter sage-grouse hens?
I bought an irrigated farm/ranch in central Montana, with a partner, and we jumped into a plan to pay for the ranch with cattle and improve sage-grouse and wildlife habitat at the same time. My degree in botany and a few years of studying sage-grouse behavior as an amateur birder helped a little. Not! I was way over my head.
I learned a lot:
- It is very hard to keep a grazing tenant happy while fencing his cows out of the best creek bottom bird habitat.
- It is very hard to keep your partner who works for National Wildlife Federation happy while letting the grazing tenant actually graze the cows on the rest of the habitat.
- It is very difficult to get the organizations which espouse setting aside agricultural habitat for birds to actually put their money to use for such set-asides.
- There is nothing more fun than walking through an alfalfa meadow in August that did not get mowed, and seeing dozens of sage-grouse chicks and pheasants run around eating bugs and stuff.
Later, we must examine:
- Industry impacts on sage-grouse
- Overgrazing impacts on sage-grouse
- BLM policies on grazing and sage-grouse
- Sod-busting and sage-grouse