Zimo: Sage grouse habitat needed to survive is disappearing

The vast sea of sagebrush in the West has been badly disrupted by livestock grazing, the spread of highly flammable cheat grass, and developments. The sage grouse and many other sagebrush species are in trouble.

Story in the Idaho Statesman.

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  1. wolfen Avatar

    I appreciate this article by Zimo. He states that the real threat to sage grouse is development and wildfires, not the livestock that Ralph alludes to. Too bad we cannot stick to the what the article really states. Instead, we always have to retreat to ‘livestock’ being the real problem. After all, livestock are killing everything, aren’t they? Hmmm! How com Zimo in his article did not point this out? Could this just be another wolf advocates ploy to further promote the wolf agenda and do away with the rancher’s livelihood?

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I don’t think you read my post the least bit carefully. Part of it says , “the spread of highly flammable cheat grass, and developments.”

    The post is only two sentences long. How did you miss that? Maybe because you were too anxious to try to score a point?

  3. elkhunter Avatar

    We used to have lots of sagegrouse when i was younger in UT. Now we never see them at all anymore. I dont know what the problem is, we even have a draw for them now, like a special hunt. Our upland game in the state is really in bad shape, not enough habitat mainly and lots of skunks, racoons, foxes and ravens.

  4. wolfen Avatar

    Yes, I read Zimo’s article and your post very carefully. In fact, I read so carefully and verified that Zimo did not say anything about livestock in his article…..only development and wildfires.

    What caught me off guard and is of no surprise is that you immediately point out livestock grazing first, then highly inflammable cheat grass (while Zimo only referred to wildfires) and development last.

    I missed nothing and only point out the facts from Zimo’s article. From what I read in his article and your initial post regarding his article, Ralph, you are the one quick to jump to conclusions trying to score a point.

    But hey, what do I know. After commenting on this site for over a year now I should now know these facts from the wolf advocates about cattle.

    1. Cattle destroy public lands
    2. Cattle destroy wildlife habitat so there are less wildlife
    3. Cattle destroy riparian areas so there are less quality fisheries.
    4. Cattle are ultimately responsible for the death and destruction of wolves.
    5. Cattle are primarily responsible and are the main contributor to global warming, even moreso than all the automobiles, coal plants, etc. worldwide.
    6. Cattle are responsible for brucellosis in elk and bison.
    7. Cattle are responsible for mange in wolves.
    8. And now, Cattle are primarily responsible for the low numbers of sage grouse.
    9. What’s next………and will the list ever end?

    It just amazes me that when an article such as Zimo’s points to something gone wrong or negative with our ecosystem that cattle and livestock are always to blame. I guess everyone needs some sort of a scapegoat now and then.

  5. wolfen Avatar

    In fact Zimo’s article states the following, “The range of the sage grouse has been cut by 50 percent as sagebrush country falls to development”. I read nothing about livestock as being the major concern, but development

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    You are right that Zimo said nothing about cattle. I know that livestock spread cheat grass both directly and indirectly I guess I need to dial up KT and she will have about 100 scientific references for you.

    When I comment on an article, I am not just condensing what it said. I often offer my own opinion, and you usually don’t like it, but I see it as “added value content.” 😉
    I thought you knew that.

    Yes declining sage grouse are another problem partly created by the Western livestock industry.

    You made a pretty good list above with a bit of exaggeration.

  7. Wolfen Avatar

    The list I made all came about from comments made from posts on your website by the wolf advocates, no exaggeration at all. I am only stating fact from what I read. Sure, livestock spread cheat grass but Zimo did not refer specifically to that so how can you make juddement on that?

    For your information, I work at the site and several years ago we had one of the worst fires ever that started off site then spread onto the site. It burnt over 100,000 acres mostly on site where livestock have not ever been. How do you account for that? That is why Zimo did not use specifically cheat grass and livestock because many more factors play into wildfires such as temperature, humidity, and winds, weather patterns, aggressive lightning storms, etc., not just the livestock issue he states.

    I know about that fire in 2000. I was there the day it started and have photos of it burning near the Big Southern Butte. It was started by a lightning strike and it had little to do with cheatgrass and nothing with livestock. The same storm storm started fires all over the place including one on Scout Mountain in the Douglas fir south of Pocatello. I never said the cattle or cheatgrass was the cause of all rangefires. I have more to say in a comment below. Ralph

    On another note. Zimo states that 50% of sage grouse country (habitat) falls to development. This is obviously the main cause….unless you tie the other 50% to livestock.

    I only have said this many times that we need to stick with the storyline and not be so quick to judge and and place blame where blame is not the primary result!

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Zimo is hardly the first person to write about the decline of sage grouse, so there is no reason to keep referring to his article. I posted it because it was current and interesting.

    Here is a much longer and detailed article from the High Country News in 2002. It goes to great length to implicate many things, including the grazing of cattle.

    So here, broaden the horizon beyond Zimo’s recent piece in the Statesman.

    Last dance for the sage grouse? by Hal Clifford. Feb. 4, 2002. High Country News.

  9. Wolfen Avatar

    Oh, I keep current on these articles and have read that one before in high country news. I guess I will quit referring to Zimos article when you quit referring to livestock’s destruction. You do this every chance you get for as long as I have been reading your blog. And I refer to Zimo’s article one and you cut me off.

    Bottom line….yes cattle and livestock spread cheat grass around. However, with the number of acres of wildfires burned in the west the past 10-years this number of acres would have most likely burned anyway in the absence of cheatgrass due to low humidity, high temperatures, wind, lightning, etc. Cheat grass and livestock have little to do with the number of acres burned but do contribute. Like you say the fire in 2000 which started west of Aberdeen in the lava flows and burned northward towards Big Sourthern Butte and onto the site did not contain cheatgrass and no livestock yet that was one of the largest fires ever in Southeast Idaho….I stand corrected, the actual acres burned was almost 300, 000 and not the 100,000. Those fires are going to occurr with or without livestocks contribution. Think of it as a forest fire where most conservationist welcome the fire to burn out old growth and regenerate new growth for better habitat. This is the same sort of process but in the desert.

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    You’ve got a lot to learn about range fires.

    Range fires were not as common in the past as people believed them to be 30 years ago.

    Their incidence is increasing, and the net result is more cheat grass because it will burn in June and sprout in September.

    It benefits from fire and causes fire. Its ability to sprout in September and burn in June allows it to out compete native grasses, and sagebrush can’t burn more than once every 20 years or it will disappear.

    I can see I need to post some articles about range fires.

  11. Jewel Avatar

    Ralph How you get away with what you do amazes me!! Your a terrible person who thinks only of himself. Your Ranch is all of our public lands? You dont like cattle and you want them off your ranch that is obvious!! Guess what Its Public land and You are not the boss of whats there or isnt there. I hope you and people like you never succeed in what your trying to do because it can only lead to disaster!!!

  12. be Avatar

    At school, my son gets a stamp on his right hand from his teacher if he did not get into any trouble on a given day. Wednesdays I pick him up from school to usher him to his grandmother’s until I am finished with work. I had made a habit of stopping by and getting him a milkshake before dropping him off on those days that he gleefully stuck his hand in the air demonstrating his stamp.

    One day, upon arrival at the school, I noticed Jaden hanging his head, moving at a slow pace. His hand was bare. I asked him what had happened, and as six year olds do, he explained several ways in which his teacher’s reprisal of the stamp was unjust. Driving by the shop was brutal – soon, as far as my son was concerned, I had become the agent of injustice. That boy threw a fit like you would not imagine !

    In the next couple of weeks it became apparent that the little guy had come to expect the ice-cream – it was no longer an appreciated treat (above and beyond)- over the time it had become an expectation whose limitation was an assault on his notion of fairness – regardless of his behavior at school and regardless of who was picking him up. I thought long and hard about what to do. Who knows whether I made the right decision – but I explained to Jaden that he would no longer recieve milkshakes after school on a consistent basis. That he had come to only appreciate them when he didn’t have them, and that he was not entitled to anything of the sort – especially since he knew that his mother would wallup me if she knew about the sugar.

    The point:

    1. Jewel – quit throwing a tantrum – your inflated sense of entitlement to public land is not supported by reason nor law.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan