Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Grouse and Grazing

I’ve been hobnobbing for three days with distinguished company – a range scientist, three biologists, and me. The first day I was pretty intimidated, just listened as they threw around scientific names of grass and brush species. By the second day I was participating in the discussions. By the third day I was arguing with them! Gotta love that.

We toured range sites throughout southeast Idaho for possible inclusion in a research project to study the effects of livestock grazing on grouse populations. According to my scientist friends, the study would be the first of its kind and will require careful planning and collaboration with diverse interests to be successful. The variables are so great, the data so elusive, that it’s never been tackled before.

I was honored to be included. It’s what I might do for fun, look at other grazing scenarios in different areas of the state with a few scientists to fire questions at. When in a group like this I often think, “If only I knew what you know, and all that I know as well, then we could make progress!” But alas, we only know from our own experience. That’s why we need each other.    

The best conversations we had were around the campfire at night. We love this land and all that it supports, and know it is more than grouse we’re concerned about. We wrestled with some little questions and some big questions. How do we address the increasing use of 4-wheelers on public land? What to do about invasive species? How do we engage the public without damaging the resource? How best do we take scientific data and make it applicable “on the ground?”

All good questions. Issues that will only be unraveled through alliances like these - where learning from one another is the objective, without pretense and above the political fray. 

Big Butte in background
good for grouse, good for cattle

black sage (artemisia nova) on left
low sage (artemisia arbuscula) on right

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