The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Stephen Larsen
Center For Rural Affairs 

Sage Grouse Conservation In Big Sky Country


Much of rural and small town Montana depends on the economic impact of recreation and tourism.

Camping, hunting, fishing, birding, hiking, guiding and other activities in 11 Western states, including Montana, brought in $623 million in direct spending and $1.06 billion in indirect spending, according to a recent Western Values Project study ( And nearby communities also benefit economically from the nearly 68 million visitors that spent time time on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Without good conservation, visitors won’t flock to these places.

Right now, rural Montana communities have an important opportunity to partner with federal agencies to plan for sagebrush ecosystem conservation. Without such planning, declining populations of species such as sage grouse might compel federal action under the Endangered Species Act – an essential tool for protecting species from extinction. If, however, voluntary conservation measures can raise sage grouse populations and benefit the local economy as well, that’s ideal.

When agencies, farmers, ranchers and small town business owners collaborate in developing conservation plans tailored to their region, both the local economy and conservation improve. Western states like Wyoming, Oregon, and Montana have begun implementing effective conservation initiatives that could serve as models of how to build strong rural economies and stable populations of sage grouse and other declining species.

By working together, we can create ecosystem conservation plans that protect existing land use, allow for new development, grow tourism and recreation, preserve habitat and stabilize habitat wildlife populations.

Steph Larson is senior policy organizer at the Center for Rural Affairs. Established in 1973, the center is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural areas through programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.


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