We received a curious letter recently and wanted to share it with our desert conservation community.
Dear Human News Media,
April has arrived and I am cringing because I know what’s coming. You’ll describe me as a “chicken-sized bird” or even worse, a “football-sized bird,” share a video of my mating dance, and move right on to the next story.
I’ll agree that my dance is enthralling. It’s something we grouse have been honing for millennia, and I wake before dawn to perform it on the snow-covered sagebrush sea, but, do you realize how multi-faceted I am? Really, I’m multi-fabulous.
I return to the same spot each season, having a natural instinct for my home. Is that not good enough for you? You celebrate the glory of other Pacific Northwest neighbors of mine, like salmon, but where’s my cred for returning to the same spot each year?
Like you, I pride myself on being hard-working. I wake up before most other species and thrive when it’s freezing outside. When was the last time you woke up at 3am for a morning call with some potential mates? Maybe you have a wild night that’s just ending, but my whole day is only beginning then!
As if that’s not enough, what other species can survive on a diet of woody sagebrush during the long high desert winter? Sure, it’s a bit rough going down, but I can pull all of the nutrients I need to survive from this hearty plant. Could you say the same for yourself?
I am a indicator species for the sagebrush steppe, but that’s not what’s making the headlines. A little extra education for the general public would help you humans understand how hard it can be out here, not only for myself, but for the hundreds of other species who live alongside me, when we’re dodging new development like power lines, roadways, drilling or mining operations, or off-road vehicles that slice up our precious landscapes.
My habitat — our habitat — is under siege. This spring, I urge you to drop the lazy size comparisons, look beyond your flitting fascination with my dance, and really pay attention to the conservation of myself and others of my kind.
Sigfried Sage Grouse