Shelia Rene Littlehawk-Calicurua: Protect sage grouse

To the editor:

I am an outfitter in Northwest Colorado. I used to provide hunting services. These days, my business is to guide people for scenic/photography wildlife. Throughout the years, I have hunted, hiked and horseback ridden through most of this magical corner of our state. I enjoy the wilderness and the wildlife that inhabit it; sharing this amazing place is the reason I became an outfitter.

Our wildlife and the habitat they need is increasingly under threat. Right now, the greater sage grouse needs our protection. It’s currently a candidate for protection under the endangered species list, and we need our political leaders to work with land managers/owners, the conservation community, tourism/hunting business owners and anyone else willing to ensure we recover the bird before it ends up listed.

Based on the story in last Saturday’s paper, I’m concerned that our political leaders have real conflicts of interest and are ignoring the consequences to business owners like me who make up the backbone of the hunting/tourism/recreation sector of our regional economy.

Protecting greater sage grouse habitat on public land sufficiently to avoid further bird death and therefore avoid a listing will protect the ability of private land owners to manage their lands and mineral rights as they do now. Wise management does not take those rights away. But the longer we resist working together, the more threatened this species becomes, then the more likely we will suffer from the loss of these amazing birds and the consequences of habitat loss in our backyards.

No one is saying public lands can’t also be used for wise development. It’s all about striking a balance. And the fact that sage grouse are in such decline is telling us that we are way out of balance. This bird is the canary in the mines indicating that the entire habitat is under extreme stress. These birds and the sage brush habitat are as valuable as natural resource, perhaps even more, as any other. They and the businesses that rely on wildlife for hunting, tourism and recreation should be better represented by our county.

Shelia Rene Littlehawk-Calicurua

Calicurua Outfitters

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