Sage Grouse Can’t Fly…. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

This morning I came across an editorial in the Las Vegas Review-Journal that was obviously written by someone who knows next to nothing about sage grouse.  As most of you know, editorials are articles written by the news editors of their respective papers that express the opinion of the newspaper.  They are often unsigned.  The editorial is about the recently released federal land use management plans that are meant to protect sage sage grouse and keep them from being listed under the Endangered Species Act.  What’s funny is they start by stating, unequivocally that “the bird can’t fly”.  They can. I’ve seen them….. many times, because I spend time in the places where they live.

This editorial accuses environmentalists of not really caring about sage grouse but that they are just using them as a pawn to restrict land uses.  They also claim that environmentalists don’t live in the states where sage grouse are potentially going to be under the Endangered Species Act.   To prove their point they cite a quote from Mark Salvo, who admittedly lives in Washington DC now that he has started working for Defenders of Wildlife, but he has worked on this particular issue for a very long time.  Mark says that the federal plans issued last week don’t go far enough to protect sage grouse.  He’s right, they don’t.

They go on to say that “ranchers and their livestock have been driven off the region’s land, the populations of previously hunted predators have increased and vegetation has overgrown to fuel wildfires“.

Well, exactly the opposite is true, especially in recent years.  First, hardly any ranchers have had their allotments closed, let alone reduced to levels below actual use — in other words, most allotments have a level of permitted use that is much higher than what ranchers actually use and, when cuts are made, they are only made to so-called “paper cows” or livestock grazing that only exists on paper.  Second, predators become more effective at reducing prey populations if habitat conditions are degraded as with overgrazing which reduces hiding cover especially for nesting and brood rearing.  The populations of predators haven’t really increased due to lack of hunting, the same number of predators have just found it easier to find their prey because livestock grazing has essentially beaten the vegetation to a pulp.  Third, vegetation hasn’t “overgrown” it has changed composition, especially in lower elevation areas where cheatgrass has proliferated because livestock grazing has eliminated or greatly impacted native grasses and microbiotic crusts.

Why would the Las Vegas Review-Journal print such a ridiculous and blatantly false editorial?  Well, as pointed out in one of the comments on the editorial, maybe it has something to do with the fact that the paper is part of a big conglomerate of companies owned by the Stephens Group which “owns a whole bunch of mining, oil, and gas development/supply companies.”

Maybe before writing an editorial the Las Vegas Review-Journal should do a little research before it starts spouting off about things it knows nothing about.  Better yet, maybe readers should quit reading articles in a hack paper with such an obvious conflict of interest.  Oh, and Las Vegas Review-Journal, look at the caption for the picture below.  You might just learn something.

These are sage grouse.  Look closely, they're flying. © Ken Cole
These are sage grouse. Look closely, they’re flying. © Ken Cole



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  1. Sam Parks Avatar

    Yes, after doing a little digging, it appears the Stephens Group owns all kinds of oil, gas, and mining operations in Nevada and elsewhere. They also own newspapers all across the country. I have to admit I get down-right scared for our democracy when I see those kind of connections between large corporations and media. It’s nothing new but it seems to be getting worse.

    1. Nancie Mccormish Avatar
      Nancie Mccormish

      Sam, check out this AP condemnation by Vickery Eckhoff this month in FORBES. Scroll down a bit to the headline:

      Critical Facts Wrong in 17 Articles, But AP Won’t Correct Them

      This article reveals a lot… name any species and replace them in the article and the picture looks remarkably similar. I too fear for our nation.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    Sam Parks,

    I agree.

    There is a much better newspaper in Las Vegas, however. It is the Las Vegas Sun.. Unfortunately I don’t think it has the circulation.

  3. Ken Cole Avatar

    They changed the article to say “The ground-dwelling bird doesn’t like to fly”

  4. Patricia Randolph Avatar

    I write a living wildlife column for the Capital Times newspaper ( online ) in Wisconsin which is being destroyed by hounding day and night year-round on all public lands combined with indiscriminate trapping promoted and expanded on all public lands, including state parks and former wildlife refuges.

    Quail are gone across the entire country. Even Outdoor “Life” ( Outdoor DEATH) had an article about “quail’s last best chance” being of all things T-Bone Pickens who happens to like to shoot them and may make an effort to grow them ( for that, of course). Sharp-tailed grouse in Wisconsin have been hunted to the brink if not over the brink. In 2009, the Fish and Murder issued 635 special licenses to kill sharp-tailed grouse and so I assume all of those shooters wanted to kill a grouse – but they could only find 27 birds and they killed them. The last three years they continued to kill them every fall – and this year, finally quit the kill because there just were not any birds to find.

    How are they doing across the country? Anything being done to protect those little bobwhite quail anywhere?

    1. JB Avatar

      “Anything being done to protect those little bobwhite quail anywhere?”

      Patricia: Quail aren’t disappearing because of human predation, they’re disappearing because of loss of habitat–specifically early successional habitat. Here in Ohio, fence rows and wood lots that were regularly harvested for firewood once provided that habitat. But fencerows are being removed as agriculatural lands are consolidated and new technology diffused through the farming community. Moreover, cheap natural gas/electricity means fewer and fewer people heat with wood (no harvesting of trees). And our state and national forests have a hard time getting harvests approved due to well-meaning, but misinformed environmentalists. Finally, toss in the increasing price of corn and farmers are pulling out of CRP left and right. The net result is a dramatic reduction in early successional habitat–habitat that bobwhite depend upon for their existence.

      You can blame hunters if it makes you feel better. But here in Ohio, the people working to make more bobwhite habitat are, you guessed it, hunters.

  5. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    But here in Ohio, the people working to make more bobwhite habitat are, you guessed it, hunters.

    Glad to hear it! I’m getting an entirely new perspective lately.

    1. Patricia Randolph Avatar

      Yep – just like Ducks Unlimited touts itself for “saving habitat” FOR KILLING. They would not save a damned inch if it were not to give themselves more killing commodity.

      You may be able to fool some of the people some of the time – the non-profits who bought the hunter membership partnership to “save habitat” ( for killing) – a very bad bargain.

      Sorry – not buying it. When one special interest uses ALL of the publicly purchased land ( 95% nationally do not kill but provide 95% of the monies to buy public lands) – and the killers control state agencies by funding them on killing licenses excluding the rest of us from any participation in protecting ANY wildlife Or any land – that is totalitarian control for killing use.

      It is a bad bargain. The rest of us have a RIGHT and an OBLIGATION to PAY and have FAIR SAY.

      I have experienced the domination of hunters killing our bears, our wolves, our bobcats, our beavers, our deer, and luring them off my 72 acre private land – for their destruction, their heads on walls, their mouthful of meat gluttony…their trophy pics.

      I write a column for living wildlife and am very aware of the propaganda you tell yourselves.

      Through decades of outdoor pages propaganda normalizing killing as management – killing natural predators for trophy and competition – trapping and mangling mid-range predators so you have more ground nesting bird eggs for (yes) more killing for you…and then killing unlucky “game” animals which keep expanding and expanding and expanding.

      NO – I have documented fully the collapse of quail and sharp-tailed grouse, jackrabbits, and snowshoe hares and bobcats – lynx, cougars, and now wolves and bears and mostly when they are less than two years old.

      You are killing extremists and it is time for GENERAL PUBLIC FUNDING and the RIGHT OF ALL CITIZENS to be involved PROPORTIONATELY and FAIRLY in decision making boards.

      How would you, the killing minority like it if you had zero say like we have – ZERO???

      I am willing to pay – wildlife watchers already bring 10-40 times the revenue of hunters directly to state tax coffers and three – to four times paltry hunting license fees even in heavy killing states. Nope – you are talking to someone who does investigative reporting. Writing my regular column right now.

      1. SaveBears Avatar


        You go get them Patricia!

        I am glad you have done the investigation, but wonder really how much time do you spend in the field?

  6. Rich Avatar

    In addition, both sage grouse and bobwhite quail nest and roost on the on the ground. Unfortunately the habitat that remains is regularly patrolled by pet and feral cats. The chicks are particularly vulnerable to predation by feral cats. Without some controls on the burgeoning population of feral cats the outlook for ground nesting birds seems pretty bleak.

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      I’ve never seen feral cats in sage grouse habitat. Not to say that they aren’t found in the periphery near human developments but sage grouse are generally not found their either. Feral cats are more likely a threat to bobwhite quail, not sage grouse.

      1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
        Ralph Maughan

        I agree. I too have noticed an occasional cats “in the periphery near human developments,” as Ken Cole writes; but the cats seem very wary and they soon disappear, as far as I can tell. Coyotes and birds of prey get them. The cats are sources of disease, however.

        A great grey owl got one of a friend of mine. The owl flew off with the cat taken just a couple yards away.

  7. Ken Watts Avatar
    Ken Watts

    Ken, you may be guilty of over-simplification. For example, grazing can greatly reduce wildfires. Therefore it is not entirely negative if done correctly.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Ken Watts,

      I am not Ken Cole, but I approved your entry into the forum (the required first time moderation of a new person’s commenting).

      How can livestock grazing reduce wildfires when done properly?

      1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
        Ralph Maughan

        Next to my place there is a guy who grazes his horses on the hillside every spring to eat the mixed cheatgrass, native grass, sagebrush ground cover.

        They are there about 2-3 weeks, but have to be removed in late April when the cheatgrass starts to develop its nasty awls.

        I can’t see that the grazing has put a dent in the cheatgrass.

        Of course in the vast public range, there is more at stake and we certainly don’t want the livestock to be allowed to eat much native grass if there is already cheatgrass there, but who is going to move tens of thousands of head of livestock off the public range when the cheatgrass starts to mature?

    2. Ken Cole Avatar

      Everything I’ve seen says that, to have any effect on wildfire, cattle must graze it down to practically nothing leaving very little habitat value for sage grouse. The big Murphy Fire study so vaunted by the ranchers basically said that the only conditions where grazing has any effect at all is when conditions are cool and humid, similar to when prescribed fires are conducted. Otherwise, to have any effect, you have to graze it down to dirt, which doesn’t burn.

  8. Nancie Mccormish Avatar
    Nancie Mccormish

    Just found this in my local paper – thought it might be of interest, maybe for the holidays. This book looks interesting!

    DISCLAIMER: Don’t know anything about the author at all

    Save the Last Dance: A Story of North America Grassland Grouse

    Date: Mon, 11/18/2013 – 6:30pm
    Place: Library Hall
    What would make a man spend ten years, journey from zero to 10,000 feet in altitude, suffer through -25 degree to 115 degree weather, travel 14 States and over 70,000 miles while taking over 1 million pictures?

    Photographing the 8 species of North American grouse!

    Conservation Colorado and the Bud Werner Memorial Library are pleased to host award-winning nature photographer Noppadol Paothong for a statewide book tour to share the story of his quest to capture the unique beauty of the grouse. His book, Save the Last Dance, is an incredible collection of photographs from the over 1 million images he took to capture all of North America’s grouse species.

  9. Nancy Avatar

    “Let us look at just one of the battles outside that is raging: the fight over whether or not to list the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) as a threatened species. This little grouse is the latest wildlife critter elevated to iconic status by environmental groups proposing to put it on the Endangered Species List. The chicken’s habitat comprises parts of 5 states: Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma, and it is 95% habitat dependent on private farm and ranch lands. It also happens to overlay some of the richest oil and gas deposits in the U.S”

    And some of us thought the sage grouse were the only “little chickens” with problems 🙂

    1. Yvette Avatar

      Nancy, I received this today via email from the Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife Conservation.

      That’s kind of a weird link. Hope it works.

      It looks like the oil and gas companies have taken a big interest in the plan to conserve the lesser prairie chicken. Who knows, maybe it will work.

  10. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    An article in the Capitol Press of Salem, Oregon regarding the sage grouse situation in Oregon in particular and the west in general. Comments by the representative of Vale BLM District Manager Don Gonzales regarding the Oregon Sub-Region Greater Sage-Grouse Management Plan Draft EIS that was recently released.


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