As I sat in my pickup somewhere north of Maybell — in a sea of sagebrush, looking east at a slowly lightening sky — there was a pink glow edging the distant mountains. Sunrise was about 35 to 49 minutes. I heard whirring sounds, and dark shapes could be seen against the sky. As I take a second look, they are birds (big ones). As the sun slowly rose, you could see 20 to 30 sage grouse scattered across an acre or so in an opening in the sage. Then white flashes as they inflated their breasts, and a sort of booming, popping, slapping sound. This was a booming ground, strutting ground lek — the spring ritual of sage grouse. Although I had seen this a hundred times or so, it’s still exciting. These birds have been coming to this spot for 15 years that I know of. How many more — who knows, 50, 100, 1,000?
I have not been the only one impressed by this display. Native Americans have mimicked these displays in their dances and rituals for hundreds or more years. These sage grouse cannot survive the total assault on their habitat, as predicted by Moffat County officials and politicians.
It seems to be driven by money. If this should happen and billions of dollars are collected by Moffat County — will the average citizen be better off? Not likely. The energy industry always has been and will continue to be boom and bust. A few may get very rich — most won’t. The sage habitat of the sage grouse and the hundreds of wild things that depend on this habitat will be gone forever!
District Wildlife Manager