ESA changes could help protect sage grouse on private land

This web exclusive appeared on on May 20, 2014

In an increasingly subdivided and trailblazed West, southeastern Oregon’s Harney County is a place that can still make you feel small. From the empty blacktop two-lane highways 78 and 20, broad grasslands rise to sagebrush-studded mesas and hills that crest and break to the blue horizons like the landlocked waves of a parched sea. Drive-fast-with-your-windows-down country; 0.7-people-and-ten-times-as-many-cows-per-square-mile country; and, as it happens, excellent greater sage grouse country.

The chicken-sized ground-nesting bird, best known for elaborate mating dances and stubborn loyalty to ancestral mating grounds called leks, occupies massive swaths of 11 Western states and two Canadian provinces. And it has lately been figuratively looming over the region like a gigantic, balloon-chested, strutting Godzilla. More…