The following is the beginning of a piece by Cat Urbigkit that showed up on Stephen Bodio’s Querencia blog yesterday:
Making headlines across the West of late is a two-page preliminary report issued by a Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologist noting that barbed wire fences pose a collision hazard to Greater Sage Grouse. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to meet its court-ordered February deadline to determine if sage grouse should be granted Endangered Species Act protections, so the report will come into play there. Those who oppose livestock grazing on public lands are also latching onto the report as another reason to rid the western range of its agricultural industry, and its associated fences.
But everyone might be reading more into the report than it merits. WG&F biologist Tom Christiansen noted it all began when two separate falconers provided incidental reports that grouse had been injured or killed on the top wire of certain fences located near important grouse areas. The area is just to the southeast of where we ranch, in the border area of Sublette and Sweetwater counties. This area is believed to have one of the largest concentrations of sage grouse on the planet. It’s falconer Steve Chindgren’s stomping grounds (the falconer who is the subject of Rachel Dickinson’s Falconer on the Edge).
According to Christiansen’s report, “One of these falconers subsequently began marking such fences with aluminum beverage cans in a volunteer effort to reduce these mortalities.” (Click here to read the rest of the post . . .)
If you are not familiar with this blog, I urge you to check it out. Several people post regularly including Cat Urbigkit, Matt Mullenix, and Steve Bodio and the topics range from falconry to coursing dogs to natural history.
Today’s New York Times has an editorial about a proposed pipeline that would take 80 billion gallons from the Green River watershed in southwest Wyoming and carry to Denver and Colorado Springs to aid in further development of that area. The editorial begins —
“To the list of truly terrible ideas, we would like to add the one that is stirring up residents of southwestern Wyoming.
A developer named Aaron Million has proposed to build a private, 560-mile-long, 10-foot-high pipeline from Wyoming’s Green River Basin, along Interstate 80, and then south along Colorado’s Front Range to Denver and Colorado Springs. The pipeline is meant to carry water — more than 80 billion gallons a year. Last week, the Army Corps of Engineers presented the proposal in the town of Green River, Wyo., where it was met with outrage.” (click here to continue reading)
Just when you thought it was safe to poke your head out of the hole it’s been in all winter, you get slapped upside the head by rumors of the natural gas circus coming to town. We live almost on top of the Marcellus shale, a formation that runs beneath much of the southern tier of New York State and northern Pennsylvania. And it turns out that it might now be financially feasible to try to extract the natural gas from this formation. Here’s the beginning of an op-ed piece I wrote for the local paper, The Ithaca Journal.
“I’ve tried to stay away from this topic – don’t want to get sucked into the long protracted battle that promises to ensue – but when the topic comes up three times in one day, I figure it’s a sign. The last straw was when I was rushing through Wegmans trying to pick up items for dinner when I overheard a conversation. As I paused in the baking aisle, two students were discussing a class they were taking. One said, “I feel a little conflicted about natural gas because it’s a non-renewable resource, but hey, the city’s all excited and so is Cornell and Ithaca College.”
They were talking about exploiting the region for the natural gas that lies under our feet. As they discussed who they’d talked to in the area I just stood there and felt sick. Felt like I’d seen all this before. Felt like people who lived in this area had no idea what they were getting in to. I’ve seen what natural gas exploration and drilling can do to an area, and it’s not pretty.
I spent a good part of a year traveling back and forth to Farson, Wyo., doing research for a book. Farson is about 60 miles south of Pinedale in the southwestern part of the state. It’s kind of a godforsaken patch of high desert that gets blazing hot in the summer and cold and snowy in the winter, but I’d grown to love the place. My book was about a hardcore falconer who hunted sage grouse with his birds. But as I spent more time in Wyoming, the book morphed into a story about a changing landscape as well.” (click here to read more . . .)
Looking out on a portion of the Jonah natural gas field outside of Pinedale, Wyo., on a hot July day.
Several years ago Tim and I visited Steve Chindgren at his cabin in January to watch him do some winter sage grouse hawking. The days began well before dawn when Steve got up and loaded his falcons and dogs into the truck. Soon, after a quick cup of coffee, we were off and bouncing along the snowy two-track roads in search of grouse. In the winter the grouse gather in large flocks and inhabit preferred feeding grounds filled with plenty of sage brush that they use for both food and shelter. They’re tough to find. If you’re lucky, you might see one perched on top of a sage, taking in the rays of the early morning light. Or you might see the three-toed tracks they leave in the snow.
snow covered sage in Wyoming
My book, Falconer on the Edge: A Man, his Birds, and the Vanishing Landscape of the American West, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt this coming spring. This has been an interesting process — I followed Steve Chindgren, a hard-core falconer, through a hunting season in southcentral Wyoming. Steve co-owns a cabin near Eden, Wyoming, where he spends most of the autumn and winter hunting sage grouse with his peregrine-gyrfalcon hybrids.
the gate to Steve's cabin