The “S” word (Sage Grouse)

Field season is just about wrapped up here in northeastern Wyoming, and it’s a bittersweet parting. As much as it may have seemed like we were hanging out in an oven replete with stinging insects and UV radiation, working out in the field is always fun and rewarding. There’s nothing quite like standing in the middle of nowhere with a pencil and a yardstick, using your knowledge and experience to play a major role in deciding the future of the land around you. It seems that these parts (at least the BLM parts) are destined to remain sagebrush grasslands for the foreseeable future in order to provide essential habitat for the Sage Grouse.

Yep, I said it. Sage Grouse. You might call it something of a “hot topic” around here. Sage Grouse conservation is a primary concern of our BLM office, a fact that is not lost on land owners in the area. These animals require sagebrush throughout their life cycles, so naturally sagebrush removal is typically not allowed on BLM land. Many land owners have come to terms with this fact, and seem to grudgingly accept the restraints in return for renting BLM grazing pasture at a low cost.

A few, however, are extremely irritated by “sage chicken” conservation efforts, and are not afraid to let people know it! Another touchy subject with some people is the mere mention of being affiliated with the U.S. government, which can lead to some deft maneuvering through racy commentaries on current and past administrations. However, for every cantankerous land owner we come across, we’ve encountered at least three others who are really understanding and willing to help us get to where we need to go and do what we need to do. Negative experiences leave an impression, but the positive has certainly won out throughout the course of my internship.

Alas, now it’s time to start transforming this mound of field data we’ve collected into something that people can use for land management decisions. I’m trying not to think too much about my internship being over halfway complete, and having to eventually leave behind all the cool people I’ve met *sniff*, so I’ll leave that for my next blog. Until next time.


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