Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sage grouse fading away as Canada proves once again to be an environmental backwater

Billboard in Calgary sponsored by the Alberta Wilderness Association
The media is beginning to pick up on the story of the Greater Sage Grouse being driven from Canada's sagebrush habitats. Here is the lead fromrecent piece published in the Edmonton Journal.

A new billboard campaign in Edmonton and Calgary flags the disappearance of the province's greater sage grouse, a bird whose grasslands home is compromised by industrial development in southeastern Alberta.

A nation that dredges "ethical oil" from the boreal forest and thumbs its nose at a world concerned about climate change, and where all levels of government approve a pipeline to send tarsands oil to Texas, is not going to blink when its last breeding Sage Grouse disappear, driven out by the same lies of "sustainable resource development".

In this case it is sour gas and oil development, cutting up the remaining critical habitat for sage grouse into small chunks, introducing roads and vertical structures that give predators an advantage, ponds that breed West Nile virus-bearing mosquitoes, and in general making such an industrial clamour that the grouse are unable to communicate and breed in peace.

I could not find a good satellite or aerial image of what Southwestern Saskatchewan and Southeastern Alberta gas fields, but here a shot from Wyoming to give you an idea of what Sage Grouse habitat looks like once it has been given over to gas and oil development:

This kind of destruction of sagebrush habitat and native grassland has put the
American population of sage grouse in peril, but things are far more dire with the Canadian population, which now is down to fewer than 50 birds (all in Saskatchewan and Alberta).

And yet American conservation agencies appear to be doing a lot more than their counterparts in Canada. At least they have begun a program to protect the species' breeding grounds.

Here is a recent article from the New York Times, entitled "SAGE GROUSE: Wyo. 'core area' concept could provide blueprint for BLM conservation strategy."

Will no one in Canadian government face up to the gas industry and strongly advocate that we must protect our critical habitat for this iconic species of the wild prairie?

Biologists are predicting that in two or three years our last Sage Grouse will be gone. What does this say about Canada, about the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta?


  1. So frightening! It saddens me deeply that the people who live in these areas (where I am originally from) seem willing to sacrifice the nature that they enjoy so much in favour of a few weeks of business for their restaurants and hotels and maybe a three-month contract on a work crew. I think that all Canadians should be involved in the decision.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Lea. I agree, and of course it is not only the local service industry benefitting from gas and oil development. We are poised in Saskatchewan to re-elect a SaskParty government whose popularity is based on the economic growth and resource development they claim to have brought to the province. Most voters buy it and do not want to know that the Sage Grouse and the integrity of our grassland ecology is threatened by this same resource boom.


Share this post

Get widget