Friday, February 17, 2012

Grouse - Just the Facts

I first met Jack at a sage grouse meeting. I knew his name well. His research is often quoted when discussing grouse biology. The room was full of government personnel. I braved up and spoke from a rancher’s perspective, challenging the language being proposed for a grouse management document.  What happened next blew me away. No one in the room commented - except Jack. And he agreed with me. Easily the most knowledgeable grouse person in the room and he agreed with a rancher? He would go on to back me up on another issue, even invited me to lunch where we talked about, yes, grouse.

Afterwards, the two of us talked occasionally and took a trip to the range to look at habitat. This winter Jack agreed to prepare a slide presentation specifically for ranchers. Would anyone come?

I’ve been discouraged in the past about the lack of interest shown by many ranchers. I know they’re busy. I know they’re uncomfortable in meetings. I’ve seen ranchers who dared attend a meeting being largely ignored by confident and well versed agency folks. Never mind the acronyms thrown about, discouraging the most valiant land manager. I’ve heard enough RMP’s, EIS’s, FOIA’s, NEPA’s, and WAG’s to last me awhile. But the ranchers did come, through the snow even though some were in the middle of calving and lambing. And they listened and asked questions. One rancher told me he learned more in those two hours than he had in four years of sage grouse meetings.

Of course we didn’t agree with everything Jack said. He tells it exactly as he sees it, from the bird’s perspective. He’s straight talking and to the point, with none of the agenda cloaked posturing done by many in the professional sector. And that, we pragmatic ranchers can deal with. 

Call me idealistic - that it’s not about the bird anymore, but politics plain and simple.  Probably true, but in the end it’s education and constructive dialogue between the folks that spend their time on the land where true long-run conservation has a chance. 

Jack Connelly in his sagebrush sea

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