Hunters have many reasons to be advocates for the greater sage grouse. NWF Photo
Due to its decreased numbers and status as a warranted species for Endangered Species Act listing, the greater sage grouse is no longer a popular game species. Some Western states do still offer very limited hunts on sage grouse, but in general, when it comes to hunting, it’s about the importance of sage grouse habitat for other, more popular game species like mule deer.
The sage grouse’s primary diet is sagebrush, and this largest species in the grouse family requires expansive, undisturbed rangelands for its habitat. Turns out those dietary and habitat requirements are quite similar to mule deer and pronghorn antelope. During the winter months in many western states, sagebrush is often mule deer’s most common food source, and mule deer also thrive in large tracts of undisturbed rangeland. Sagebrush is year round habitat and diet for pronghorn.
“Sage grouse were once abundant, widely distributed, and a popular game species throughout the West,” said Dr. Edward Arnett, wildlife biologist and director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Center for Responsible Energy Development. “Now sage grouse numbers are low enough to warrant listing, and all sportsmen should be concerned about that. Sage brush ecosystems are so important to so many other species, like mule deer and pronghorn, so when you protect sage grouse habitat, you are also protecting big game species that sportsmen pursue.”
Hunters need to be strong advocates for sage grouse conservation. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that sage grouse were once a popular game bird and that sage grouse habitat is vital for western big game species, but also because sportsmen have already contributed significantly to sage grouse restoration. Since 2000, according to Arnett, sportsmen have provided $130 million in license sales and equipment taxes for sage grouse conservation.
About the Author
Russell Bassett is the National Wildlife Federation's online campaign coordinator for hunter and angler outreach. Before joining NWF, Bassett was the executive director of NWF’s Oregon affiliate, The Association of Northwest Steelheaders. He has worked with other conservation organizations, as a public affairs supervisor while serving in the US Army in Korea and Iraq and for newspapers as a reporter, photographer and designer.