For reasons that I don’t think anyone fully understands, numbers of greater sage grouse in the west are on the decline. I’m not sure where this large native bird sits on the historic population scale but from reading the news the last couple of years one would assume it’s low. Fingers have been pointing to urbanization, West Nile disease, gas and oil development, and land-use practices. And we all know what happens after that. That’s right, Endangered Species designation.
While this federally mandated law has served its purpose a number of times, it is fraught with pitfalls and politically charged emotions. Better to manage these critters without the heavy club if at all possible.
So I see the National Resources Conservation Service (an agency which falls under the USDA) is getting farm bill money to spread around to volunteer landowners in Montana (from AP via Forbes.com):
Conservation measures that could be taken in those areas include new grazing plans to reduce the impact of livestock, removal of power lines where birds that prey on sage grouse often perch and adding markers to fences that grouse otherwise could run into and die.
A representative of the Environmental Defense Fund said the NRCS approach to sage grouse in Montana was a "good step" that should be repeated in other states.
This actually sounds like a good idea. Keep the money going to the affected principals, i.e. ranchers, instead of funding some lawsuit. I think we all win when we keep the attorneys on the sideline.
The greater sage grouse is a very limited bird in North Dakota, adhering exclusively to its namesake habitat (sage) which is only found in the extreme western part of the state.