In July, the US Fish and Wildlife Service launched a website to “communicate the breadth of the ongoing conservation actions underway to support Greater Sage-Grouse and the sage brush habitat the bird and 350 other species need.”
The Greater Sage-Grouse website highlights work being done at the federal, state, NGO and individual level. Public affairs specialists are available to answer questions about Greater Sage-Grouse conservation.
Canada can certainly learn from the extensive resources and news about various initiatives available on the US website. For example, the Sage Grouse Initiative – Wildlife Conservation Through Sustainable Ranching focuses its work on private lands, home to 40% of the grouse population. They undertake work like:
- Conifer removal to preserve grouse habitat;
- Conservation easements to limit development on private land;
- Grazing systems to improve nesting, rearing and wintering habitats for grouse;
- Marking fences which can reduce bird strikes by up to 83%, helping the grouse reach their breeding grounds safely; and
- Habitat restorations.
In Canada, the government is doing little, so the voluntary Sage-Grouse Partnership is doing what it can to fill the gap and to protect the endangered Sage-Grouse. The partnership includes both representatives of the Alberta Wilderness Association and some directly affected ranchers. Their work includes:
- Determining appropriate voluntary activities on ranchlands aimed at improving habitat for Sage-grouse.
- Advising, on efforts to reintroduce Sage-grouse.
- Sharing information and learnings relevant to Sage-grouse (e.g., behaviour and habitat requirements of Sage-grouse; programs being implemented elsewhere; relevant policy and legislative changes).
- Sharing information on issues and activities and developing mutually agreeable solutions.
- Preparing joint communications with stakeholder groups and others when appropriate.
- Advocating for effective tools for landowners/leaseholders for managing public access on lands that are critical for Sage-grouse recovery.
- Advocating for economic incentives that will assist landowners who are supporting Sage-grouse recovery.
- Engaging the petroleum and utility industries and government in Sage-grouse initiatives.
Partnerships between ranchers and NGOs like AWA may be the best available path forward to protecting the Sage-Grouse, especially if they can bring oil and gas companies on-side as well.