On Their Own?


A Greater Sage-grouse male displays on a Sublette County, Wyoming lek, or mating ground.

Congress has taken control of the endangered species process again. The new budget spending bill would block any federal funds going toward determining whether the Gunnison Sage-grouse or Greater Sage-grouse — two species of endemic, imperiled western birds — are eligible for listing under the Endangered Species Act. So, the whole business of collaboration to save the species and avoid a listing gets turned on its head, grouse get thrown under the bus – for what? You can fill in the blank here____ bowing to Big Energy? Greed? Here’s the thing, and you know this if you’ve visited this blog, the sagebrush ecosystem is the iconic landscape of the American West. The Greater and Gunnison Sage-grouse are the iconic species for the ecosystem, so they get the full attention of folks who like to write “chicken-sized birds that live in sagebrush.” Grouse are the bellwhether for the health of a massive ecosystem in collapse, and there are plenty of declining species worthy of habitat protection and a very close watch, each a canary in the coal mine. This budget process really stinks when politicians who claim they’re not scientists (when discussing climate change) usurp the role of dedicated professionals working hard for collaborative solutions. I’m not crying for a listing, just a process that affords species, every threatened species, a chance to recover. These are our lands, our wildlife. What will folks write when mule deer are endangered? “A brownish, medium-sized, hooved mammal that winters in sagebrush, except those that hang around the edges of western towns, browsing on lawns and gardens. Once plentiful, mulies were highly sought and coveted by hunters until their decline.”

6 thoughts on “On Their Own?

  1. Politicians keep proving that politics is “bad business”. The shut down last year, and now these year-end shenanigans, leave most of us wondering if this will ever again be about something other than red and blue.
    Beautiful image of a bird I grew up with; only the Sandhill crane more fully captured my admiration. Looking forward to your book–“the sagebrush ecosystem is the iconic landscape of the American West.”

  2. This is so depressing. And well stated in your post. Our system is clearly broken and I see little hope that rational heads will prevail. Makes me want to move to a different country, except I hate the though of abandoning all our precious wilds in north america.

    1. Good to hear from you Jack – Where in the world are you? The system is broken, but there’s still a process and a lot of westerners aren’t going to just accept this end around. We know the ESA is under attack and that won’t change. What do we do? Engage others, write letters, make images that tell a story. We can’t stay quiet – on many fronts.

  3. One of my favorite birds to photograph for their amazing mating behavior! When govt interferes with science, everyone and everything should live in fear! It won’t end well!

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