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February 02, 2015 10:56 AM UTC

Groundhogs and Sage Grouse: Getting it Right This Time

  • by: PiceanceDog

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Phil has seen his shadow and that means six more weeks of winter.  In the classic movie Groundhog Day the holiday has acquired a different meaning – reliving an event over and over, with the opportunity to get it right eventually.

The Greater sage grouse may not have that opportunity.  We need to get it right for this species—and that might come as a federal listing under the Endangered Species Act unless Colorado and the ten other states that manage habitat for this species get plans in place quickly. 

Which is kind of like Groundhog’s Day all over again.  Recently failures to get effective management in place—primarily in the satellite populations—led to the listing as threatened of the Gunnison sage grouse, a related but distinct species that occupies a much narrower range. 

In that case the State of Colorado is suing the federal government for listing it at all while some environmental groups are suing the federal government for listing it as threatened rather than endangered.  Like Déjà vu all over again. 


We can avoid all this with the Greater sage grouse—despite the best efforts to meddle from Congress, threats of lawsuits from some, and the looming listing decision by the federal government for September 2015, which the Interior Department insists remains on track.

We can avoid it, if we get strong conservation plans in place promptly.  But congressional meddling won’t help, bickering is counter-productive, and lawsuits are a tactic for delay, not necessarily to successfully protect this species. 

This time of year also marks Imbolc, the returning of the spring—even as we still look toward more winter.  Shadow or not, Groundhog’s Day is a hopeful time, marking the half-way point from the longest night to the Vernal Equinox.  It presents an opportunity to get things right, to mark and make progress, and not to get stuck in behavior from the past. 

For the Greater sage grouse, here’s hoping it marks movement toward getting real, strong conservation plans in place quickly.  Posturing and politics won’t get the job done: we don’t need to see that movie again.  


2 thoughts on “Groundhogs and Sage Grouse: Getting it Right This Time

  1. PDog, assume I know just enough about this to be dangerous. If I were to talk about this with the average middle school kid who is sympathetic to all animals, they would be all for keeping the sage grouse's habitat pristine. They understand "endangered species" because of all that fact based biology they are required to study, since Christian fundamentalists haven't yet managed to dumb down that curriculum.

    A high school junior would know that land is a valuable commodity, that there may be money to be made from grazing livestock or growing crops or extracting minerals or setting up windmills on it, and that maybe saving it for the sage grouse would bar humans from certain activities on it.

    So what would I teach students about the benefits to humans of leaving sage grouse habitat undisturbed, or minimally disturbed? Better hunting? Air and water quality? Can you point me to a website or curriculum for students about the sage grouse?

    1. Good questions.  Sage grouse habitat benefits over a hundred species and provides lots of recreation revenue (the land remaining intact).  There is a tour each year to look at leks and the mating dance, put on my Conservation Colorado.  Sasha is the organizer out of their Craig CO office.  You should contact her.  She has done some historical research on how important it used to be for local food source, and has some great pictures and videos that the kids would at least enjoy.  You can email me watchdog (@) piceance (dot) org 

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