The recent listing of the Gunnison sage grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act made waves even here in rural Montana. That's because countless landowners and stakeholder groups here have been involved for many years to ensure that the greater sage grouse doesn't also require an ESA listing.
The greater sage grouse inhabits millions of acres of public and private lands in 11 western states. As such, countless westerners and local communities would be impacted by such a listing.
Sadly, due to a bunch of circumstances, the greater sage grouse has seen its numbers decline across its range over the last 20 years. As a rancher and farmer with greater sage grouse on my lands, I have followed the plight of this bird my entire life. Thankfully, this year my neighbors and I have witnessed a banner year for grouse numbers on our lands here in Montana. I believe this was due to both good weather and the good-faith efforts of landowners, stakeholder groups and wildlife agencies on the state and federal levels working together.
With their unique insights into landscape and natural resource management and their personal stakes in the outcome, landowners like myself must have a seat at the table on greater sage grouse discussions. From experience, I know ranchers and farmers to be genuine stakeholders concerned with not just making a sustainable living off the land, but in protecting wildlife and natural resources for the long-term. For the collaborative efforts on the greater sage grouse to work, however, all states must show the proactive leadership and action of Montana.
Now is the time for the Bureau of Land Management, and western states that have yet to craft coordinated greater sage grouse conservation plans, such as Colorado, to get going.