Category Archives: Sagebrush

Update: saving the sage grouse

Saving the Sage Grouse – NYTimes.com.

The following quote from The New York Times is a letter about NOT putting the Gunnison sage grouse on the Endangered Species Act, reminiscent of the nineteenth century effort to eliminate the buffalo along the transcontinental railroad routes to California.

Re “Newly Discovered, Nearly Extinct,” by John W. Fitzpatrick (Op-Ed, March 7):

The proposed federal listing of the Gunnison sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act would devalue state and local efforts already under way to conserve the species while simultaneously undermining energy development — both renewable and conventional — in the habitat region.

A federal listing would affect wind energy projects in the Monticello, Utah, area, oil and natural gas production in San Miguel County, Colorado, and potential geothermal development in the Gunnison Basin, Colorado. Agricultural interests would also be greatly affected, as 90 percent of the bird’s habitat sits on federal and private land grazed by domestic livestock.

Energy producers — from wind to natural gas — and local landowners are already working with state agencies to provide protection of the bird, while also providing domestic energy and hundreds of jobs. Placing the grouse on the endangered species list will not only undermine these efforts but will also halt energy development in the proposed region — a devastating, job-crushing, unintended consequence.

BARRY RUSSELL
President, Independent Petroleum
Association of America
Washington, March 8, 2013

From a post on my blog, Poprock Hill, February 22, 2010.

Fat-Takers

Buffalo Skulls at Michigan Carbon Works (1895) Detroit Public Libarary

The Sioux have a name for the white men.  They call them wasicun–fat-takers.  It is a good name, because you have taken the fat of the land.  But it does not seem to have agreed with you.  Right now you don’t look so healthy–overweight, yes, but not healthy.  Americans are bred like stuffed geese–to be consumers, not human beings.  –John (Fire) Lame Deer, in “Lame Deer Seeker of Visions: The Life of a Sioux Medicine Man,” p. 44.

Life is out of balance when people trespass into nature with two notions:  there is a superabundance of resources and nature can be harvested because man has dominion over nature.  Neither are true.  What teachers instructed the men in hats and suits to stand arrogantly on top of a carefully-stacked pile of buffalo skulls to be ground into fertilizer?  Life is out of balance when the photograph above was taken, the men standing on skulls and the teachers and preachers that taught that man has dominion and rights to harvest indiscriminately.  Lame Deer calls such people fat-takers and they are not human beings.  Life is still out of balance when coyote hunts are contests for pelt count and young persons shoot prairie dogs for blood sport.

Photograph above of John (Fire) Lame Deer (1974) Heyoka Magazine, November 2006.

So much to learn by going and sitting down in the woods.

So much to learn by walking the mesa.

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Sage blooms in Abilene

Sage blooming in Abilene, Texas, September 20, 2011.

This late summer, thundershowers fall infrequently around Abilene, Texas.  Yet, some showers do fall about this west Texas city that lies close to the Brazos River and Buffalo Gap, a niche in the hills that allowed buffalo to migrate from north to central Texas in the nineteenth century, following the shortgrass and bluestem in their casual browsing.

Two days ago as I worked late at my office at Cisco College, I walked by three large sagebrush by the back entry door.  A monarch butterfly floated by, floating and fluttering as if they are playing, and landed on one of the blossoms.  But before I could draw my iPhone from my coat pocket, it flew away and out of my range to snap a picture.  Alas, I was too slow on the draw.  I followed it to a green clump of slender grasses and lost it, despite my intent search.  The monarch had buried itself from my eyes, thinking me a raptor?

Yesterday, following the blooming sagebrush and my failure to photograph the butterfly, it rained about the city, to the north and west particularly.  A rainbow emerged with the sun setting to the east.  And, this morning, the temperatures were the coolest since May, a 61 degrees before sunup.

I think, if sagebrush blooms, can rain be far behind?  And playing monarchs about the purple sage?  Not far behind either.

Three sagebrush with blossoms at the back door of Cisco College, September 22, 2011. The monarch flew and hid in the bushes to the upper right of the photograph.

 

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Pronghorn sunbursts

N. Scott Momaday

One morning on the high plains of Wyoming I saw several pronghorns in the distance.  They were moving very slowly at an angle away from me, and they were almost invisible in the tall brown and yellow grass.  They ambled along in their own wilderness dimension of time, as if no notion of flight could ever come upon them.  But I remembered once having seen a frightened buck on the run, how the white rosette of its rump seemed to hang for the smallest fraction of time at the top of each frantic bound — like a succession of sunbursts against the purple hills.

— N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain, p. 19.

* * *

In the early seventies, between Clayton and Springer, New Mexico, Charles Fairweather and I drove fast to the Sangre de Cristos for our yearly getaway with several other friends who had already made camp.  We came up out of the roadbed onto a small hill and to the right, off the highway about 200 feet, were several pronghorn.  Charles quickly stopped the car and pulled out his deer rifle.  Charles, I said, let the pronghorn be.  Besides, it would be poaching if you shot him.  He was a good man, but impulsive at times.  He re-sheathed his weapon without a word and drove on to camp.

* * *

Between Snyder and Post, Texas, large ranches abound.  On one ranch, the Covered S, I saw pronghorn graze five years ago.  In the last four years, with the placement of wind mills for power and an extensive clearing of brush, I see no pronghorn.  They grazed in pastures on either side of highway.  This holiday, as we traveled to Lubbock, I looked intently onto the eastern pasture of the Covered S, hoping to see white rump in brown and yellow grass.  I saw none on either day we passed the Covered S.  I counted plenty of oil wells, but no antelope.

* * *

In the Journals of Lewis and Clark, they reported that antelope would rub themselves against sagebrush in order to perfume themselves.

* * *

Pronghorn at Red Rock, Idaho (J. Purdue photographer)

 

 

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Antelope and Sagebrush

Between 1804 and 1806, Meriweather Lewis and George Rogers Clark led an expedition of the American West.

Lewis noticed not just one but several species of sagebrush. He wrote,

“[O]f this last the A[n]telope is very fond; they feed on it, and perfume the hair of their foreheads and necks with it by rubing against it.” Sierra Club notes on Lewis and Clark expedition.

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