Groups target Nevada predators

Mountain lions, coyotes, badgers, skunks and ravens will all be targeted in an effort to improve deer and sage grouse survival using $866,000 from the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s Heritage fund.

Rather than tackle the main issues related to sage grouse declines, livestock grazing, sagebrush killing projects, and energy developments, groups in Nevada are going after predators instead. Guess who will do the killing? Wildlife Services.

Just another subsidy to the livestock industry.

Groups target Nevada predators

Sage Grouse © Ken Cole
Sage Grouse © Ken Cole

Soil Crusts in Cave Valley, Nevada © Ken Cole
Soil Crusts in Cave Valley, Nevada © Ken Cole
Sage Brush with ancient soil crusts Cave Valley, Nevada © Ken Cole
Sage Brush with ancient soil crusts Cave Valley, Nevada © Ken Cole
After the Mower/Chopper Cave Valley, Nevada © Ken Cole
After the Mower/Chopper Cave Valley, Nevada © Ken Cole
After the Mower/Chopper Cave Valley, Nevada © Ken Cole
After the Mower/Chopper Cave Valley, Nevada © Ken Cole



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  1. Salle Avatar

    Looks like there is a trend in the west where ignorance trumps knowledge. Maybe if they stopped “chaining” so much habitat in those counties, there would be more mule deer and sage grouse. My guess is that such a move would save millions of $$, but I’m not stupid enough to know that won’t help.

  2. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    First of all, where are the mule deer numbers, and the data to support these wildlife objectives. Predators are once again the scapegoats. Someone in the article stated that killing predators might eliminate the sage grouse being protected under the Endangered Species Act, which of course is a big concern to people that want to continue to develop the state of Nevada. If the Bush Administration in all it’s ineptness had considered some of these listings- this wouldn’t have gotten to this point. Kempthorne was too busy drawing up the design for his new bathroom.

  3. gline Avatar

    And let me guess, the intent to “conserve” the sage grouse and mule deer is for, hunting them?

  4. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    Gline- if I am not mistaken sage grouse are viewed by many as a nuisance animal- you know the type of people that decide which species have value and which do not. The real tragedy is the Bush Administration when they opened up the floodgates to developement in the west with very little if any oversight to the impact on the environment. By the end of Bush agencies like the USFWS were having the developers themselves fill out the biological impact statements that were required and put in place to protect animals like the Atwater Prairie chicken and sage grouse populations.

  5. gline Avatar

    Isn’t the Sage Grouse considered endangered in many places? william

  6. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    All of these animals like the sage grouse have declining numbers. There is always pushback by states that don’t want their state restricted by an ESA listing. After all it’s just a sage grouse! To answer your question I am not sure if populations in the midwest like Nebraska have ESa protection.

  7. gline Avatar

    Thanks for your information William… I know: “just a sage grouse” but they are such quirky animals! They add to the landscape of diversity, or did add. (God was very creative!) I knew there was controversy about them being listed as endangered in my area. Looks like in 2005 they were denied protection in the Mountain Prairie region of Idaho. ( It seems as usual there are a combination of effects (-Mining, grazing, habitat loss due to development, Plus they are hunted), that contribute to declining numbers.

    effects of grazing on sage grouse habitat

  8. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    Hundreds of animals were denied protection during the JUlie Mcdonald era of the DOI. I regarded this as a very dark time for wildlife management, the Bush years. A jail cell awaits her I hope!

  9. Ken Cole Avatar

    Sage grouse are not listed anywhere. In Washington State I believe they are a candidate species but they are not listed.

    Western Watersheds Project is litigating this and the Feds are supposed to make a decision next year. I’ve heard rumors that distinct population segments will become listed in certain areas that are not connected to the bigger core populations. The problem is that the core populations are being threatened by livestock grazing and energy development too.

  10. Ken Cole Avatar

    Gunnison sage grouse, in parts of Colorado and Utah, are also candidate species.

  11. gline Avatar

    Thanks Ken. William maybe it will get better with Obama admin? maybe…

  12. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    Ken I am looking for a sierra article from 2006 I think that did a story on how Julie Mcdonald altered scientific evidence on the Gunnison’s sage grouse I believe.

  13. gline Avatar

    That would be an interesting read…and why put sage grouse on the list if you can just go in kill predators at taxpayer expense?

  14. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    I think Obama could have done much better with his DOI choice of Salazar. Obama was looking for someone that would enforce laws and clean up the dept of the Interior’s image after Kempthorne. Salazar is a rancher so I don’t think we will get the type of support from him that we would like to see for wildlife. It has to get better it couldn’t have been worse than Bush. Every day I would say ” what will happen next to the environment”.

  15. gline Avatar

    The Salazar appointment was the worst decision. Environment is low priority when you have constant war going on to protect us of course.

  16. kt Avatar

    Yep. Salazar is a disaster.

    There is no new direction of any kind in BLM. Just more of the same – BLM effortlessly lying about impacts of its management activities and decisions on public lands -to benefit ranchers and any destructive industry that comes along.

    The only public “face” of Salazar is constant braying about “renewables” – and BLM selling out to remote-sited wasteful and destructive wind and solar on sensitive sage-grouse, tortoise and migratory bird habitats. Gotta keep the energy scam investments of Dems and Repubs. safe.

    BUT: Back to Nevada – and BLM and Salazar. There appears to be a planned policy of habitat destruction underway where BLM is destroying the critical sagebrush in deep soil sites all across the southern portions of the sage-grouse range in Lincoln and White Pine counties. This mowing, crushing, hacking, poisoning (using a chemical called Tebuthiurin) and general destruction of big sagebrush seems a policy purposefully designed to get rid of sage-grouse and pygmy rabbits in that area. Removing those nasty furry and feathered impediments to permitting run amok development clears the way for the Las Vegas water pipelines that Ralph has frequently posted about – like in Cave Valley, a massive series of huge new transmission lines supposedly to facilitate remote wind and solar, huge industrial wind farms all over Spring Valley including right next to Great Basin National Park, and other the large-scale wind including extending north into the Brown’s Bench-China Mountain Area of Nevada.

    Maybe Ken can post some photos of the REAL problem in Nevada – continued and accelerating purposeful federal agency sanctioned loss and destruction of sagebrush habitats. Plus of course chronic Dark Ages grazing conducted by BLM, and increasingly occurring under permits held by foreign-owned mines, the Las Vegas water pirates, and sundry speculators/scammers that purchase the base properties. Ely BLM, for example, won’t even admit there are sage-grouse present on Barrick gold mine allotments – until legally forced to. Wouldn’t want to disturb the gold mine cows.

    Instead of unleashing a reign of traps, poisons and general terror on public lands through the Wildlife Services Death Squads – that only will end up resulting in Mesopredator release and more skunks and other less glamorous egg and rabbit kit eaters that WS won’t bother with – the Gibbons Commissioners/Mule Deer crowd should free the Department biologists from political pressures and have them raise a ruckus with BLM over the real issue: Habitat, habitat, habitat. And the rapid and accelerating destruction of sagebrush habitats in NV for the sole benefit of industry.

  17. kt Avatar

    The sagebrush killing chemical is called Tebuthiuron. I mis-spelled it. BLM is using funds from sale of public lands in Clark County (facilitated by an older Harry Reid Wilderness Bill) to pay for the new War on Sagebrush. Funds that were supposed to go to buy lands for habitat.

  18. gline Avatar

    Well, kt … beautifully said and so incredibly sad! God 20 years from now what’s the place going to look like? I would imagine killing off small rodents leads to killing off the beautiful falcons and eagles, coyote etc. Just pushes the ecology systems around, us manipulating the ecological system like we think we know what we are doing or claiming that we do to see how many people buy that BS.

  19. Ken Cole Avatar

    I just posted some photos showing exactly what kt is talking about. I was in Nevada in October and found a place with great soil crusts and old sage brush. Problem, in the eyes of the ranchers, was that there wasn’t any grass anymore so, under the guise of habitat improvement, the BLM authorized a massive habitat obliteration project. I walked out into the area of destruction and my feet sunk into the dry deep soils which likely will just blow away. There were tracks of all kinds of critters in the dust.

    I’m sure they killed numerous lizards, pygmy rabbits and all kinds of other wildlife. It was disgusting and a waste of money.

  20. Brian Ertz Avatar

    sage grouse do not have ESA protection anywhere, but the WWP litigation spurring listing consideration for sage grouse has resulted in many state & regional level “protections” that would otherwise not exist.

    one reason sage grouse are so important is that they require a diversity of sagebrush habitat conditions throughout their life-spans. This means that the well-being of sage grouse is largely indicative of the health of the habitat conditions upon which they depend, and their populations can be interpreted as a sort of “bellwether” of the potential vibrancy of other species throughout the sage ecosystem.

    in protecting sage grouse, we protect a huge swath of western biodiversity and habitat.

    states, in an effort to prevent listing, have ginned up all sorts of reactions claiming adequate protective “mechanisms” in an effort to prevent listing. unfortunately, the threats to sage grouse occur on massive landscape scales for which piece-meal protections are wholly inadequate – though the threat of listing has prompted such attention – sage grouse need the comprehensive protection of the ESA.

    other de facto protections that have been prompted in the shadow of impending listing include favorable judicial decisions concerning public land management that have been largely considerate of protections for sage grouse even in the absence of explicit listing.

    The ESA listing of sage-grouse will be the death of many proposed extractive developments on public lands, and will send tremors through the status quo mismanagement of public lands ranching, oil & gas developments, habitat obliteration projects, etc.

  21. Ryan Avatar


    How do you address areas Sans cows and development that are still seeing and have seen precipitious declines in sage grouse populations I.E. Hart Mtn and Sheldon?

  22. kt Avatar

    Hi Ryan,

    BOTH Hart Mtn and Sheldon BOTH have suffered a lot of PURPOSEFUL sagebrush burning in critical sagebrush habitats conducted by ill-informed Managers pursuing the federal tax dollars associated with “Hazardous Fuels Projects” within the past decade.

    This purposeful destruction of sagebrush has reduced the habitat available to sage-grouse there.

    I don’t know if you ever have driven across the southern part of the Summit Lake-Sheldon-Vya area – through the vicinity of Badger Camp on Sheldon. It is dismaying to see how burned out the Sheldon landscape is. To its credit, Winnemucca BLM to the south has not done the same thing. SO – the largest expanses of unburned habitat are now on BLM. BUT alas – the understory on the BLM lands is trashed by cows. BUT a glimmer of hope is that if there was to be removal of livestock, the BLM understory may recover.

    PLUS these ungrazed areas (Sheldon and Hart) are where some OTHER states now are getting grouse for transplants. This involves capturing and disturbing birds on Sheldon and Hart leks in the spring. NOT good for the local population – removing breeding adults some of who also get killed or injured – then exporting the grouse and dumping the grouse out in greatly fragmented habitat like in the doomed sagebrush landscapes of WA state.

    So Bottom line: BOTH these areas in the past 10 years have had a LOT of sagebrush burned ON PURPOSE. It was madness to do so – but burning sagebrush was all the rage …

    Part of the FWS and BLM/Fire Industrial Complex justification for sagebrush burning has been that lands are “out of balance” with past Fire Frequencies. Well, now William Baker and others are showing that the fire frequencies claimed to be present historically in sagebrush by range science types who had been viewed as “experts” – like range scientist Rick Miller – are DEAD WRONG. The fire return intervals are now known to be MUCH longer than those that were used to justify use of fire and other disturbance in the current War on Sagebrush.

    Basically – they have burned down the sage-grouse’s house …
    And following on last night’s Wildlife Services Pyscho Killer theme. This goes out to the agency Pyros and their range science supporters pursuing federal fire funds for supposed “management”

  23. Cris Waller Avatar

    Hey, if we’re gonna do Talking Heads lyrics, you’re missing the most apropos ones of all (I used to use this song as an introduction to talks I would give on animal issues!)

    From “Mind”-

    Science won’t change you
    Looks like I can’t change you
    I try to talk to you, to make things clear
    but you’re not even listening to me…
    And it comes directly from my heart to you…

    I need something to change your mind.


  24. Cris Waller Avatar

    Ah, here was the film clip that I was thinking of- even better!

  25. kt Avatar

    Hey Cris: Great (and disturbing) clip …

    I did like the jumping at the end of the first one. Kind of feel like doing that at times.
    Like every time I hear what good stewards ranchers are, how they care deeply, how domestic sheep don’t cause bighorns to die, and in hearing now proposals for more of this nonsense of killing predators rather than stopping habitat destruction of grouse habitat …

  26. kt Avatar

    Ken: THANK YOU for posting the new photos of Cave Valley showing the REAL problem with sage-grouse in Nevada – unrelenting destruction of habitat. In the Cave Valley case, the sagebrush killing in this beautiful area seems aimed at eliminating sage-grouse and pygmy rabbits so SNWA/Pat Mulroy’s water pipelines and other development can proceed without hindrance. Oh yes, and SNWA/Pat Mulroy also holds the grazing permits – and killing sagebrush promotes weeds for cow feed.

  27. gline Avatar

    Thanks for the truth Kt and ken.

  28. Percy Avatar

    Ryan, I’m not sure about the most recent few years in terms of sage grouse numbers, but last time I went solo backpacking in the Hart Mt refuge there were more sage grouse than I had ever seen, and I have been going there for 25 years. That was maybe four years ago. The wildlife there has really benefited from the end of cattle grazing on the refuge.

  29. josh sutherland Avatar
    josh sutherland

    The sage grouse in our area are doing really well from what we have heard. We go down each year with our dogs to help do counts and this year was the best in along time. To get permits to hunt is done like a draw and you can draw 2. It was fun, they are great birds to run dogs on. Big, kinda dumb and easy to find. Perfect for young dogs.

  30. Percy Avatar

    Hart Mt:
    “This year peak male attendance at the leks was 1898 up from 1671 last year! That’s an increase of more than 11%! We have had several mild winters and over winter survival of sage grouse has been high (we know this from radio-collared hens from last spring).”

    Could be that winter climate is the bottleneck and predation has little long-term effect.

  31. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I’ve been away for several days and with no Internet access. Meanwhile Ken Cole posted a great and shocking indictment of Nevada’s wildlife and vegetation destruction.

    I think if the water witch of the West wants to to this, then she (Pat Mulroy) should be crushed.

    Are we sure this is the Southern Nevada Water Authority?

    I see the National Journal just did an article on the ten worst governed states. Nevada ranked high, actually the 2nd most dysfunctional state. New York was number one.

  32. Ryan Avatar

    This year peak male attendance at the leks was 1898 up from 1671 last year! That’s an increase of more than 11%! We have had several mild winters and over winter survival of sage grouse has been high (we know this from radio-collared hens from last spring).”

    Thats a Far cry from the ~9000 counted in the 1940’s.

  33. kt Avatar

    Ralph: Ely BLM is doing this to sagebrush all over Lincoln and much of White Pine Counties. They have been doing it since at least 2006 in Spring Valley. What Ken saw in south Cave Valley this fall I saw this fall occurring in north Spring Valley, and in Hamlin Valley. In just one trip, I drove past many other areas where sagebrush had been mowed/crushed/hacked in the past 3 or so years. Like in northern Spring valley – weed patches above Cleve Creek and elsewhere where in 2006 or 2007 BLM had done the same thing,

    There are several things driving this:

    1) BLM pursuit of Cow Grass. Primary permittee now on Ely BLM lands is SNWA/Mulroy – Mulroy now holds the grazing permits for both cows and domestic sheep (complete with all the germs and bighorn deaths from the domestic sheep germs) on a million or more acres. This includes most of Spring Valley, most of Cave Valley and many other areas.

    2) Kneejerk actions by BLM/ local working groups to try to prevent sage-grouse listing – so they are killing the sagebrush – idiotically hoping they can somehow “farm” sage-grouse by growing grass. The number of sage-grouse in Ely is already very low – we don’t know how low, that has been kept hidden. But the situation is bad – yet as Ken will attest Ely BLM tries to sweep sage-grouse concerns under the rug in rubberstamping gross livestock overstocking under its grazing permit renewals. We’ve even caught Ely claiming there aren’t any sage-grouse leks, when NDOW mapping clearly shows there are. The wanton sagebrush destruction is only making the grouse situation worse.

    3) Ely BLM is in the crosshairs of all manner of development: Both Aquifer mining and so-called Renewables and some hard rock mining as well. SNWA aquifer mining is accompanied by disturbance of whole landscapes – conducted in various “Phases”. See, for example, the documents showing development extending into Cave, Hamlin, Spring and other valleys. Google SNWA Cave Valley, SNWA Hamlin Valley, or SNWA Spring Valley and you will find all kinds of documents with maps, showing some of the development planned for these areas. Well fields, power lines, water pipelines, etc.

    This is just part of the development. There are several proposals for large-scale industrial wind in critical Ely sage-grouse habitats . AND a network of new transmission lines (SWIP, NV One, all manner of foreseeable ancillary lines if wind goes forward, other lines for SNWA aquifer mining, etc.). Sage-grouse and pygmy rabbits are THE impediments to the impending destruction of the heart of the Great Basin as public lands become Water and Energy Colonies for Vegas and LA. BELOW is a link to a news article that shows that at least part of the SNWA Plan is to destroy water-sucking vegetation.

    4) And I very cynically believe that part of what is occurring is in some case purposeful destruction of critical sagebrush habitats – using BLM or a group called the Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition as the “tool” – so the impediments are no longer around by the time the analysis for the development projects is completed. ENLC prepared an EA for BLM for a significant amount of sagebrush killing in Lincoln County including in Cave Valley and Hamlin Valley. ENLC is headed by a former Director of the NV Cattlemen. After leaving his post as NV BLM Director, current national BLM Director Abbey was on the Board of the ENLC. ENLC gets a lot of federal tax dollars funneled to it in one way or the other, and is a big promoter of massive manipulation/veg killing on wild lands.

    BLM (and the Forest Service too in central NV) are doing their usual veg destruction in pursuit of cow grass. The range hacks from the UNR and other land Grant colleges have developed elaborate schemes to promote this killing dubbing it “restoration”. They map soils, and say – Oh this soil should support XXX amount of cow grass and it doesn’t anymore and that is the fault of the sagebrush. So we must kill the sagebrush – we can’t have our ideal cow grass unless we kill the sage, and then seed it with cultivars/cow grass. The other thing is they now use something called a State and Transition model to claim that mature and old growth sagebrush WITH SPLENDID microbiotic crusts and no weeds in the understory is “decadent”, improper, aberrant, an affront to civilization as we know it. So the only way to save the old sagebrush it is to kill it and seed cow grass. And pinyon/junipers are just vermin. No matter how old they are or where they are. Kill, kill, kill.

    BLM – never seeing ANY kind of habitat destruction it does not wholeheartedly embrace – funds this in several ways using our tax dollars. Through Federal Fire Funds – claiming the sagebrush is a “hazardous fuel”. Killing sagebrush and pinyon/junipers feed the BLM fire bureaucracy – more projects – more $$$ gobbled up, more “fuels” personnel. There are also “Wildlife” funds being poured into it.

    PLUS we have learned specifically that at least some of the sagebrush killing that is occurring in Ely BLM lands is being funded by the sale of public land in Clark County (Vegas)– under the SNPLMA Harry Reid Wilderness Bill. THAT land sale provision of the Bill was highly controversial at the time, because it allowed sale of a lot of land. So what do the agencies do? Instead of using the land sale funds to BUY other land for habitat, Ely BLM (and I believe Ely Forest Service, too) are now using land sale $$$ to kill sagebrush and pinyon/junipers. Again, ALL of these projects that kill woody veg are termed “restoration”.

    The long-term BLM agency planning framework to do all of this killing is now officially enshrined in the new Ely RMP. Under the umbrella of the new RMP, BLM can authorize destruction (termed restoration) of nearly ALL the nasty water transpiring pinyon-juniper and 2/3 of the sagebrush in the 12 million acres of the Ely District – in order to “restore” it. Yep. Kill it to save it … That 12 million acres of Ely BLM land is as much BLM land as BLM manages in all of Idaho – for perspective. It includes critical habitat for both very small populations of sage-grouse on the southern periphery of their range, and pygmy rabbits..

    For anyone who doesn’t believe that Vegas is at least partly responsible for helping set se of this up – Here is a lonnng article from the Las Vegas Sun by Emily Green that discusses how Vegas plans to target greasewood and other phreatophytes.

    “So the logic goes: Target the phreatophytes whose water you intend to take, and don’t allow them to compete for water.

    Pump hard. Kill them fast. Then let the system return to equilibrium so what water comes in from snowmelt equals what is taken out by Las Vegas pumps, and the water table doesn’t fall inexorably”.

    NOW sagebrush is not a phreatophyte. HOWEVER it does transpire water over a long period of the year, and it is home to both sage-grouse and pygmy rabbits – both of which are viewed by developers as impediments to their development schemes – (water pipelines, AND to remote sited destructive wind farms). Interestingly, too, where Ken’s photos were taken were down near the low spit/playa in the valley.

    And there are those who believe SNWA may be involved in wind behind the scenes –seeking wind to power its pumps/aquifer mining. As a sidenote/digression: There are plans for massive industrialization of Northern Spring valley with wind. This is being done in a segmented manner. There is right now a fast-track EA (not EIS) for wind development right by Great Basin National Park. You see, it needs to be fast-tracked because Harry Reid is running for re-election and he wants “green” jobs, or something … And what could possibly be more “green” than industrializing Spring Valley – Ground Zero for proposed SNWA aquifer mining too- with 400 foot all wind turbines all up and down the valley??? Segmented NEPA process by segmented NEPA process.

    Ely BLM (and the Ely Forest Service is trying to catch up) is basically on run amok with destruction of ALL manner of woody vegetation that transpires water into the atmosphere. MUCH better to have halogeton/cheatgrass/tumbleweeds – cuz they use much less water …

  34. Ken Cole Avatar

    I edited kt’s comment above by changing “pj” to pinyon/junipers for those who didn’t know what that meant.

  35. kt Avatar

    There is also ANOTHER shoe to drop besides the smashing, mashing, and pulverizing of the mature and old growth shrubs in the valleys SNWA seeks to dewater. The BLM Lincoln County Sagebrush “RESTORATION” EA (Calling George Orwell) also calls for poisoning the public land with the long-lasting persistent herbicide Tebuthiuron in targeted areas of sagebrush that are not smashed.

    That fine herbicide kills woody shrubs for 10 years or more. But it does NOT kill the lovely tumbleweeds and perhaps scraggly cow grass that will spring up.

    Tebuthiuron is also is known to infiltrate ground water. But heck, the poor suckers in Vegas who end up drinking the polluted water Mulroy seeks to move to Vegas someday will never know …will they?

    And again, the range cons from UNR and USU with their Soils and State and Transition models derived to justify killing sagebrush and pinyon-juniper for the livestock industry cow grass are the frontmen for promoting “farming” lands for wildlife by killing the very species the wildlife relies on.

    Then, as the icing in the cake, the States/Western Governor’s Association- after the range folks have gotten local sage-grouse groups all frothed up to conduct a new War on sagebrush (to save grouse of course) reports to the US Fish and Wildlife folks who are dealing with Listing of sage-grouse that they have done great and wonderful projectsby killing sagebrush to save sage-grouse. in fact, an earlier “hazardous fuels” sagebrush mowing/smashing project shows up in a 2004 West Govs list touting how the BLM and local groups are “saving” sage-grouse.

    THEN after the sage is all smashed and the grouse numbers are ever more dismal – Ta-da! To the rescue swooping in with aerial gunships, shiny new pick-ups and a fresh supply of traps, M-44s, and corvicides, comes Wildlife Services. Gonna kill the gol-darn egg-eaters that are gettin’ all the grouse nests. After the grouse habitat has become so greatly fragmented by all the “restoration” that nesting grouse can find nary an intact patch of sagebrush to nest in anywhere.

    Which takes us full circle back to where this thread began …

    Great system, eh?

  36. kt Avatar

    ALSO: I left out that the Western Governor’s report from circa 2004 declaring how great things were being done for sage-grouse specifically listed a BLM sagebrush mowing project also IN Cave Valley.

    In the area of northern Cave Valley that i visited (separate from Ken), BLM in fall 2009 was freshly smashing sagebrush it had not previously taken out inside what were obviously mowed older strips – as well as de-shrubbing the center of the valley where rabbitbrush was present as a result of past disturbances.

  37. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    How can anyone say that sagebrush mowing benefits a species like sage grouse that absolutely need sagebrush to survive?

    Are they stupid or just inept liars? Why do they even bother to produce grass for cows when the entire economic activity is a loss?

  38. kt Avatar

    Oh, you see that sagebrush is decadent, decadent, decadent. If anyone doesn’t know – and you wouldn’t if you weren’t around public lands ranchers and BLM much: “Decadent” when applied by range “scientists” to sagebrush, juniper, even tall ungrazed grass, is a term of loathing. Said with a sneer and a snarl. Nothing in anyway to do with the positive connotations of chocolate decadence.

    The range cons claiming decadence say we need grass and forbs for grouse. AND the only way to get them is to kill the sage, start over with cultivars, keep grazing every as ever before … and … uh … you know …

    Part of the justification is that grass won’t come back on its own, and grouse need grass to help hide nests.

    Conveniently, the livestock grazing and its annual removal/chronic depletion and destruction of grass is left out of the BLM “restoration” picture …

    In this BLM, UNR and ENLC fantasyland of laying waste to the land, White Papers are written on “What if We Do Nothing”.

    Oh, fear, fear I am very afraid the world will end if we don’t smash sagebrush and manipulate/destroy the native woody vegetation on nearly all 12 million acres of Ely lands. Seriously. White Papers. Can you imagine how Mulroy and the Water Miners are just grinning at this all?

    Again, sale of public lands in Clark County that was supposed to go to buy land for wildlife and conservation and OUR TAX DOLLARS are helping fund this madness.

    I think Ken also has photos of some fine post-sagebrush smashing BLM Livestock grazing going on to the north in Elko County (Elko BLM) … near Tabor Creek/Marys River, too. Anywhere is any sagebrush left, you can be darned sure it is way too decadent …

    I will look for the White Paper Link.

  39. Ryan Avatar


    How has the smoky the Bear campaign affected overall sage stepp health? I’ve seen other comments here deploring the BLM for controlled burns, what about the control of naturally occuring fire on the desert ecosystem?

  40. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Nevada is just full of unnatural wildfires, fueled by cheatgrass; and that is one of the major reasons for the decline of the deer herds.

  41. kt Avatar


    You might be interested in new papers from William Baker, blasting a big hole in the BLM-Forest claimed “natural” fire frequencies that have been used as a justification for burning, smashing, herbiciding and other killing of sagebrush. Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks actually put out a report by Petersen I believe in the mid-90s that strongly questioned the range cons claims of abbreviated fire intervals.So did Bruce Welch. They were ignored by the “range” folks. Paper #12 at this Link:

    I believe I explained earlier how understanding of fire frequencies in sagebrush has changed a great deal in recent years, and the range people are being shown to be wrong. And that BLM, TNC and others were using claims of frequent fires to justify all of kinds sagebrush killing disturbance. Kind of like if you haven’t beaten your wife lately, it’s time to do so.

    INSTEAD of sagebrush burning frequently, it is now being shown that it did NOT do this. Al Winward, Miller and other “range” background types kept claiming fires were much more frequent than it turns out they were. Those incorrect range scientists claims of frequent sagebrush fires were, and continue to be, used as justification for killing sage by BLM.

    Their claims are now being shown to be wrong. Whisenant and Billings started exposing this truth in their papers on fire and cheatgrass and impacts of frequent fire on sagebrush in the early 1990s.

    Now it is being shown that all nearly Sagebrush – including the higher elevation mountain big sagebrush – burned very, very infrequently. Wyoming big sagebrush – the most common lower and mid elevation sage and one of the primary targets of the Nevada destruction has very long fire return intervals. 200 years or more. AND it is now known that sagebrush community recovery from disturbance takes a long time, too. Fire intervals: Mountain big sagebrush – a 100 years or more. Vs. the 20-30 years the Winwards and Millers of the world were claiming. Low sagebrush: Almost never burned.

    AND here’s the hypocrisy of it all: At the same time that Ely BLM is promoting killing sagebrush because it hasn’t been disturbed lately/has an “unnatural” fire interval, it is glomming on to federal fire funds that BLM claims will be used to kill more sagebrush (Haz Fuels funds) to keep other keep sagebrush from burning.

  42. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Nothing like killing so you can have more to kill. Anyone else see the irony in this?

  43. Elk275 Avatar

    For those of you interested in Sage Grouse here is link that I found from an article in today’s Billings Gazette. Billings, Montana newspaper. It is a newly released 24 chapter book or paper on Sage Hens as I call them.

  44. Elk275 Avatar

    Sorry about it has it has already been posted, but then I will second the motion.

  45. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thanks Elk275,

    I see that chapter 12 in this book is about fire and sagebrush in pre-EuroAmerican times and in the present day.

  46. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    “ALL of these projects that kill woody veg are termed “restoration”.
    Or in the case of clearcut logging “regeneration” means out with the old, in with the new.

  47. kt Avatar

    Thanks Ralph, for some reason I could not get a link to the individual Fire Chapter to work.

    Barb Rupers: A big problem with “out with the old” in sagebrush is that taking a mature big sagebrush community with intact microbiotic crusts “out” to promote cow grass opens the door to weeds, weeds, weeds. Cheatgrass, halogeton (Ely has hundreds of thousands if not millions of acres of halogeton). AND in Ely’s case they are “hunting down” the deep soil big sagebrush sites and destroying the sagebrush -‘cuz that is the most productive for cow fodder. And of course further fragments remaining habitats and promotes desertification processes that are already rampant in that part of the sagebrush biome.

    I found a link to one of the ENLC presentations. One of the slides says it all – that GRASS is claimed to be the foundation of the arid sagebrush communities down there. Nonsense. Sagebrush is the foundation, and crusts and grass.

    Again Bob Abbey was on the Board of this group for a while. A lot of public funds are funneled to it. It was involved in the NEPA analysis for some of the sagebrush killing that is going on in Ely. Basically taxpayers funding ENLC to carry out woody veg. killing agendas – be they that of the ranchers or the SNWA water miners who want to rid the valleys targeted for mining of any of those nasty woody water transpiring plants. . Headed by an ex-Director of the NV cattlemen. See this Powerpoint:

    See Slide 31. All they want is grass. That’s what all the wacked out Models and fancy Powerpoint is about. Grass, grass, grass. And in the heyday of sagebrush and Pj killing in the 60s and 70s – Ely took out hundreds of thousands of acres (if not millions) of woody veg before. This was especially to seed Crested wheatgrass all along the bases of many of the ranges. They already tried this once, and grouse declined, declined, declined. For example, if you drive down Highway 93 south of Majors Place. Look at the base of all the ranges and the valley- Schell Creek, Fortification, Wilson Creek country. There are OLD CRESTED WHEATGRASS seedings everywhere. Devoid of forbs or diversity. Sagebrush and pj have come back in some areas, but the EXOTIC GRASS is pretty much a dead zone for sustainable populations of sagebrush species.

    If this group wants to do something useful: Take out old crested wheat seedings … That’ll never happen.

  48. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    The old growth forests are far more complex and interesting than those created by regeneration harvests.

  49. kt Avatar

    Barb: I agree!

    Here is a link to an NRDC Blog Post about this all, too.

    This scorched earth predator killing has already been going on in several places in Nevada. THat needs to be reported on in depth, too.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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Ken Cole