Saturday, February 8, 2014

Winter Grouse Meetings

I’ve been in on some enjoyable meetings lately with ranchers, biologists and range scientists around a familiar topic, sage grouse.

Political sparring is in full swing over the bird as we move closer to the deadline for an Endangered Species listing decision in September of 2015. Cutting through the rhetoric and posturing, getting down to what’s best for the bird can be difficult sometimes . . . actually most times.  

The meetings were held to address rancher concerns and to nail down sites for a grazing and grouse research project to be conducted in Idaho over the next ten years. And as far as meetings go, these were great. It feels good to finally scientifically address the continuing debate over whether grouse and cows can co-exist. The research promises to be common-sense based and applicable to real world situations, and though the ranchers are understandably cautious, they signed on.

One meeting was held at a local fire station. It doubles as a community center evidenced by the boxes of canned food for locals in need. Another meeting was over coffee at Martha’s Café, another at a government agency conference room with high-tech overhead mapping, and finally we shared lunch at The Country Kitchen. Different ranchers in every setting, but all interested in learning ways to protect their livelihood and still do right by the bird. 

We listened to a member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribe talk about the medicinal qualities of sagebrush leaves and the long tradition of hunting grouse in tribal lore. Another long time rancher told of grouse flying up under his colt, watching summer broods scurry to cover and seeing large flocks rise late in the year when gathering cattle in the fall. A woman rancher described the beauty of the desert when wild flowers are in bloom. A middle aged ranching couple talked of the miles and miles of fencing they maintain each year and how to handle rats in the cabin over the summer. 

These ranchers are the real deal. I applaud them for stepping out as leaders, willing to move forward whatever the outcome.   

one frosty morning

Anna's Mater horse

new cedar post

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