Sagebrush Country 2015
Between April 7 and April 13, 2015, IJNR took a group of 18 journalists on a whirlwind tour of the "sagebrush sea" - the wide-open ecosystem of the American West that supports hundreds of species of flora and fauna - including the greater sage grouse, a small bird with a big story. We traveled more than 1,800 miles through five states over the course of seven days, and met with more than 50 expert speakers - from biologists to sixth-generation ranchers to political representatives.
With a range that covers eleven Western states (and bleeds into two Canadian provinces) the greater sage grouse has the entire West holding its breath. Should the species be listed as “endangered” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (a decision delayed by Congress’s last spending bill), it would impact nearly every aspect of Western land use – from grazing, to oil and gas development, to wind power projects, to urban development and more. With so much at stake, ranchers, environmental groups, state resource agencies, scientists and energy companies are all at work implementing conservation programs as they try to show the federal government that sage-grouse conservation can succeed when diverse stakeholders work toward a common goal. Some argue that their work shows that listing the grouse would be superfluous and harmful to development, resource extraction and recreation. Others contend that nothing short of the protections laid out in the Endangered Species Act can save the bird.