Voices from Sage-Grouse Country

Hardcore Outdoorsman Aims Camera at Desert Floor in Full Bloom

By Judith Kohler

Westerners who live, recreate and make their living in Sagebrush Country want to save the greater sage-grouse, a bird that once numbered in the millions, and want to save the sagebrush steppe. The steppe, which is habitat for sage-grouse and more than 350 species, has been reduced in size and degraded by urbanization, wildfires, invasive species, energy development, overgrazing. There are fewer than a half million sage-grouse across 11 Western states.

Communities, ranchers, state and local agencies and nonprofits have teamed up to conserve sage-grouse and the habitat that’s also home to mule deer, elk and pronghorn. Their work and conservation plans the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management wrote with input from states and locals led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide that sage-grouse didn’t need to be placed on the endangered species list.

A year after that decision, it’s time to put the plans in action and rebuild the population of a signature Western species. Leading up to Sept. 22, the one-year anniversary of Fish and Wildlife’s announcement, the National Wildlife Federation is daily showcasing Westerners who care about the greater sage-grouse and its habitat. They want the political wrangling over the conservation plans to stop so we can get on with saving the bird and the herds.

These are some of the “Voices of the Sage.”

Image: Robert Gaudet

Robert Gaudet moved from California to Nevada more than 45 years ago after spending several weekends fishing with a buddy in the Silver State. After taking up residence in Las Vegas, he started hunting big game and traveling throughout eastern Nevada.

For more than 25, years Gaudet has volunteered with the Nevada Department of Wildlife to help teach others about hunting, fishing and archery. Gaudet, the Nevada Wildlife Federation president, has spent many years roaming sagebrush country exploring, camping, hunting, fishing and becoming familiar with trails and historical points of interest. His passion for the land has made him capable of talking at length about the flora and fauna. The hard-core outdoorsman is just as apt to shoot a camera as he is a gun. He keeps a camera handy at all times so he can document the desert’s many wildflowers.

“Sagebrush country is absolutely beautiful in full bloom,” Mr. Gaudet marvels. “That’s why I love it when it rains, as it washes away all the dust, and makes it fresh and clean. When you’re out there after a rainstorm, you smell the pungent aromas of sage and creosote. Then you get excited because in a couple weeks there are going to be blossoms of every color pushing up through the desert floor.”
Image: Robert Gaudet

He and other Nevada Wildlife Federation members have worked diligently for years to conserve sagebrush habitat. It’s time to carry out the conservation plans by the Bureau and Management and the U.S. Forest Service, he says.

“We’re trying to drive these plans into motion by monitoring the state agencies’ progress,” Gaudet adds.

Next up: A sixth-generation Wyoming rancher reflects on how sagebrush country is “really part of the core of our being.”

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