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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.

In stark contrast is the Canadian government’s delay and minimal action.

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:

  1. Determining appropriate voluntary activities on ranchlands aimed at improving habitat for Sage-grouse.
  2. Advising, on efforts to reintroduce Sage-grouse.
  3. 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).
  4. Sharing information on issues and activities and developing mutually agreeable solutions.
  5. Preparing joint communications with stakeholder groups and others when appropriate.
  6. Advocating for effective tools for landowners/leaseholders for managing public access on lands that are critical for Sage-grouse recovery.
  7. Advocating for economic incentives that will assist landowners who are supporting Sage-grouse recovery.
  8. 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.

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