Birds of the Wild
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The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is holding a hearing on Tuesday, July 16, at 2:30 p.m. ET to receive testimony on the Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study. This study is a landmark analysis of water supplies in the basin over the next 50 years that will be a critical tool for water managers at all levels as they plan for future water use.
Sportsmen need to be aware of this important planning activity and what it means for hunting and fishing. You will be able to watch a live webcast of the hearing on the committee’s website.
In the first season of “TRCP’s Conservation Field Notes,” our friend Steven Rinella discussed the importance of managing water in the western United States, including in the Colorado River basin, and what it means for fish and wildlife. Check it out, and stay tuned for more updates on the Colorado River study.
How well do you know T.R.? Give our Wednesday Win trivia challenge a try. Roosevelt’s Bull Terrier, Peter, caused international drama when he________
Leave us a comment below or email your answers to email@example.com by Friday for your chance to win a season one DVD of “MeatEater.”
Why would a South Dakota farmer want to trade places with a Louisiana Gulf fisherman? The TRCP launched an exchange program this summer to answer that question and seek solutions to conserve America’s great native prairies and coastal waters.
In the TRCP “Barnyard to Boatyard Conservation Exchange,” three South Dakota farm couples will travel to Cocodrie, La., in July for a three-day educational outing to learn about the trials and triumphs of managing businesses reliant on healthy Louisiana Delta and Gulf of Mexico ecosystems, complete with a fishing trip along Louisiana’s Cajun bayous.
Subsequently, three couples engaged in commercial fishing, tourism and recreational fishing from the Louisiana Delta region will travel to Sioux Falls, S.D., in August to participate in an intensive, three-day briefing on the innovations and realities of grain and livestock farming and ranching, capped off by a trip to the Sioux Empire Fair.
In the nation’s capital and around the country, the TRCP works to strengthen laws, policies and practices affecting fish and wildlife conservation by leading partnerships that influence decision makers.
“Our hope is that these six couples will return to their communities and stress the need to take action to conserve our nation’s natural resources for future generations,” said Tim Kizer, private lands field coordinator for the TRCP. “This is not a quick fix. It will take time. Some long-held opinions and practices must change, but we are in this for the long haul. This exchange is about equipping people with the tools to make a difference for their own futures, as well as those of their children, neighbors and their new friends thousands of miles away.”
Reporters interested in attending the Barnyard to Boatyard Exchange should contact Cathryn Kennedy, firstname.lastname@example.org (612.309.3951); Pam McCarthy-Kern, email@example.com (612-360-0647); Katherine McKalip, firstname.lastname@example.org (406.240.9262) or Tim Kizer, email@example.com (479-530-8855).
These days, there’s a lot of talk out West about a game bird called the greater sage grouse. This chicken-sized bird lives in the sagebrush country in places like Wyoming, southern Idaho, southeastern Oregon and Nevada.
Western sportsmen have enjoyed hunting sage grouse in open sagebrush country for generations. Unfortunately this great tradition is in jeopardy. Populations have been declining for years, so much so that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering the bird for possible listing as threatened and endangered – a decision that would end sage grouse hunting for the foreseeable future.
As sportsmen, maintaining robust populations of all kinds of wildlife should be one of our top priorities. That we could lose the opportunity to hunt such an iconic game bird should be a wake-up call.
The story of the sage grouse is a sadly familiar one; the loss of crucial habitat throughout the range has led to steadily declining populations. While there are places throughout the West where robust populations exist, the Fish and Wildlife Service is mostly concerned with the overall trend – not just in population numbers but also the continuing loss of quality habitat throughout the range.
Like another Western icon, the mule deer, sage grouse need a variety of habitat types, including summer and winter range and breeding areas, all of which are highly dependent on the West’s fickle – and often extreme – weather patterns. The decline of the sage grouse closely correlates with decreasing mule deer populations in the West. Each is highly dependent on healthy sage brush ecosystems, and as the health of the sagebrush ecosystem declines, so too do the populations of wildlife that rely on them.
One of the biggest threats to the sagebrush ecosystem is wildfire. Dramatic changes in the wildfire ecology in sagebrush country, has largely been driven by the proliferation of cheatgrass. Once this invasive exotic grass gets established, in and among sagebrush, it causes wildfires to burn hotter and faster. Instead of less intense, slow moving “cool fires” that tend to be beneficial, cheatgrass causes very hot, fast moving fires that completely destroy many hundreds of thousands of acres of prime sagebrush habitat. Then after the fires, cheatgrass outcompetes other native plants making it difficult for the beneficial natives to reestablish. The result is millions of acres converted from healthy sagebrush plant communities to cheatgrass monocultures, leading to more frequent and hotter-burning wildfires that are harder to contain – and often spread to other areas of healthy sagebrush, continuing the cycle.
Energy development such as oil, gas and wind energy is another major threat to sage grouse. Both traditional and renewable projects and their associated infrastructure like roads and pipelines reduce the quantity and quality of sagebrush habitat, translating into lost hunting opportunities down the road. While most sportsmen agree that we need domestic energy, the real challenge is going to be balancing this need with the need to protect high quality habitat here in the West.
The TRCP is working with sportsman’s groups and state fish and game agencies across the West to identify valuable public lands fish and wildlife habitat and develop strategies to conserve them. Here in Nevada, local sportsman’s organizations and the Nevada Department of Wildlife are partnering in this effort. We’re discovering that much of the high value habitat for animals like mule deer, pronghorn antelope and elk overlaps with areas of core sage grouse habitat. The lesson is clear: quality hunting and fishing relies on quality habitat and sage grouse conservation in sagebrush habitats will benefit multiple species of wildlife including those pursued by sportsmen.
An endangered listing for the sage grouse would have far reaching consequences here in the West – and not just for sportsmen. Ranching, mining, energy production and the economies of many small towns and rural areas all would feel the effects.
Sportsmen need to be aware of what’s going on and get involved. It’s not enough to avoid listing the sage grouse; we need to make sure that habitat conditions in the West are improving so that fish and wildlife populations remain healthy and so that sustainable harvest will continue to be part of our wildlife conservation heritage. The TRCP is working directly with our elected representatives in Washington, D.C., as well as with local and state governments to focus efforts on protecting existing habitat and developing new strategies to tackle this challenge. Sign up as a TRCP Western Sportsman Advocate to stay informed and take action on issues that affect our Western hunting and fishing heritage.
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More