Sage-Grouse Reintroduction: More Habitat Protection Needed

Reports in yesterday’s news media reveal details on a program to import sage-grouse from Montana to Alberta. While this reintroduction shows overdue recognition by the Alberta government of the dire situation of one of Canada’s most endangered species, and is likely necessary, Alberta Wilderness Association is concerned. Alberta Sustainable Resource Development’s Fish and Wildlife branch still have not fixed the underlying problem of habitat degradation and lack of protection for all the critical habitat that these endangered birds require.

“It seems Fish and Wildlife has gotten ahead of themselves,” says Carolyn Campbell, conservation specialist with Alberta Wilderness Association. “Failure to protect sage-grouse habitat has brought the species to the brink of extinction. Without secure habitat, these new birds may also be in peril.”

The sage-grouse is the largest of all North American grouse. Best known for the males’ spectacular courtship displays on ‘dancing’ grounds known as leks, sage-grouse rely mainly on intact silver sagebrush habitat for food and cover. The population of this iconic and charismatic bird in Alberta and Saskatchewan declined by nearly 90 percent between 1988 and 2006. In 2011, only 13 males were counted in Alberta on leks. No data on counts has been released by Fish and Wildlife yet for this year.

“If sage-grouse are wiped out in Alberta, it will be an entirely avoidable and human-caused tragedy due to poorly managed energy development,” adds Campbell.

For more information:

  • Carolyn Campbell, Alberta Wilderness Association conservation specialist: (403) 283-2025