Eagle Scout Project Helps Sage-grouse
It’s no surprise that the BLM is working hard to help sage-grouse; their numbers have declined rapidly in recent years, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified the bird as “warranted but precluded” for listing under the Endangered Species Act. BLM employees aren’t the only people working to save these important birds; local community members are involved as well.
After attending an Eagle Court of Honor, Wes Burgener contacted the Idaho Department of Fish and Game with the idea of helping to protect this unique species of bird. After further consultation, the IDFG had Wes contact Devin Englestead, wildlife biologist for the BLM’s Upper Snake Field Office. Fortunately for Wes, Devin had a project already lined up and just needed some manpower to get it going. After a few meetings, Wes began his project of placing reflectors on barbed wire fences. “It was interesting to learn about the birds and the measures the BLM is taking to ensure their survival,” said Burgener. “Devin was able to teach me a lot and it was cool to know that just a little reflector strip could make a difference in the birds survival.”
Livestock fences can be an important tool in managing rangeland by assisting ranchers in completing rest rotation periods and protecting critical riparian areas. Unfortunately, in some locations, fences can pose a problem for other wildlife species, including sage-grouse. While normally not an issue, in some locations (areas with a high sage-grouse concentration, near leks or travel corridors), installation of fences has resulted in fence collisions. Grouse fly to their leks before sunrise and the darkness, combined with the bird’s low flight pattern, make the birds highly susceptible to fence collisions. In addition, predators can also flush the bird into the fence while patrolling their lek areas. In attempts to reduce the death collision rates, the Upper Snake Field Office started marking fences with three-inch strips of vinyl siding and reflective tape in 2010.
Devin had previously identified fences that needed to be marked and thought that an Eagle Scout project would assist this project. So, Wes went to work sending out flyers and coordinating work parties with people in his troop. The BLM supplied the materials and Wes supplied the people. “It took about three days and seven of my friends to build and cut the reflectors for two miles of fence,” said Burgener. “After that, it just took us one day to mark the fence.”