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Interior Secretary Praises Sage Grouse Conservation Efforts

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, praised sage grouse conservation efforts in Wyoming during a tour of a ranch outside of Pinedale on Wednesday. The Bousman Ranch is one of nine in Wyoming that have agreed to work with the Fish and Wildlife Service on sage grouse conservation. During the tour Secretary Jewell learned about the ranch’s new strategies for protecting the grouse, such as converting windmill water tanks to solar to eliminate perches for the grouse’s predators like hawks and ravens.

“We have here in Wyoming the most effective example of the state and private landowners working in cooperation with multiple federal agencies to protect these ecosystems in perpetuity, to support the ranching lifestyle, to support the sagebrush steppe for the sage grouse, the mule deer and the other species,” she said.

In return for the ranchers providing special protections for grouse on their land, they’ve been promised that if the bird is listed as endangered in future, no extra regulations will be imposed on them.While Jewell said she was impressed by the efforts, she also remembered what it was like before sage grouse numbers dropped.

“Sagebrush habitat used to be abundant in 14 Western states,” she said. “The sage grouse as we understand from people who were the first settlers would darken the skies because there were so many of them.  We have a small fraction of what we had back in those days. And we're beginning to understand more and more about the ecosystems they depend on.”

After the tour, Jewell attended a signing ceremony for the ranches that have agreed to conservation measures on their property. Governor Matt Mead and Director Dan Ashe of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also attended.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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