Getting ahead of the grouse

By Jayson Jacoby, The Baker City Herald

Baker County ranchers have a rare chance to prepare for, rather than react to, the listing of an endangered species.

We hope a lot of them take advantage.

The species is the sage grouse. About one-third of Baker County, mostly in the sagebrush-rich eastern and southern sections, is habitat for the chicken-size bird.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided that federal protection for the sage grouse is warranted, but that other species are higher priorities.

Ken Anderson of the Baker Valley Soil and Water Conservation District

said the grouse could be listed as threatened or endangered within the

next three years.

Although it's not clear how a listing would affect private property,

it's conceivable that some ranchers would have to cut back on the

number of cattle they graze on their land as a means of protecting

grouse habitat.

That could have a detrimental effect on ranching, the largest sector of the county's economy.

To that end, Anderson has scheduled a meeting for Aug. 2 in Baker City

at which landowners can learn about the Candidate Conservation

Agreement with Assurance.

The basic idea is that landowners who, in advance of a species listing,

take certain steps to protect its habitat, will not have to enact

additional measures when the species is listed.

And lest anyone wonder whether this program equates to a case of crying

wolf, the sorts of things that could qualify a landowner make sense,

both environmentally and economically, even if the sage grouse is never


In fact, controlling noxious weeds and juniper trees, and employing a

grazing rotation system to ensure pastures continue to produce ample

forage, are techniques that many ranchers already use.

Of course the details, as with most government programs, could be troublesome for certain property owners.

But the potential benefits for those who participate could be

significant - enough so to justify spending a couple hours scrutinizing

those details.

The Aug. 2 meeting will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Crossroads

Carnegie Art Center, at the corner of Auburn Avenue and Second Street.

The Baker City Herald
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