Hunting and conservation go hand in hand — it has been that way for over a century. But hunters are currently at crossroads, spurred by the population and habitat decline of the greater sage grouse all across the West. The birds once numbered 16 million, but less than 500,000 remain. The main cause of their demise is largely due to habitat loss in some of the most important sagebrush habitat, which federal and state agencies are working to protect in ways that will hopefully lead to the birds’ recovery. The BLM has released plans for 10 states, including Idaho, that will guide how federal lands are managed for sage grouse.
These plans represent a step in the right direction. Balanced restrictions on development and other disturbances to sagebrush, along with better and more coordinated plans to prevent rangeland fires, have been long overdue for our federal public lands. It’s not a “one or the other” proposition. We need the BLM plans, complemented by state conservation plans and private landowner efforts, to conserve the sagebrush ecosystem. And we need Gov. Butch Otter’s support for the BLM plans to preclude a need for sweeping Endangered Species Act protections. It’s the right thing for Western wildlife.
Drew Wahlin, Idaho Chukar Foundation Inc., Meridian