Last Dance for Sage-grouse?

Just 13 Male Birds Remain in Alberta, as Recovery Fails

In 2011, just thirteen male greater sage-grouse were counted in Alberta. Without emergency action to protect sage-grouse habitat, the species will die out in Alberta, and the finger of blame will be pointed squarely at provincial and federal governments which have failed to act.

The decline in sage-grouse has been steep and steady in Alberta since1996, when the bird was first listed on Alberta’s blue list as a species that may be at risk. And yet both provincial and federal governments have utterly failed to take action to protect sage-grouse habitat and halt the slide.

“What is particularly galling to Albertans is the fact that the province knows exactly why sage-grouse are disappearing, and exactly what we need to do to stop the decline, yet still they do nothing,” says Cliff Wallis, AWA vice-president. According to federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, “Causes for the decline are largely due to the loss, fragmentation and degradation of its native grassland habitats through oil and gas exploration, overgrazing and conversion to crops.”

University of Alberta biologist Dr. Mark Boyce has said that the loss of Alberta’s sage-grouse would be "the first case where the oil and gas industry has caused the extirpation of a species from Alberta.”

 “They are now looking at relocating sage-grouse into Alberta from other places,” says Nigel Douglas, AWA conservation specialist. “But there is a reason they have disappeared from Alberta. If more birds are put back into degraded habitat then they are doomed to suffer the same fate.”

In a last-ditch attempt to save the province’s sage-grouse, AWA will be hosting an Emergency Sage-grouse Summit in Calgary, September 7 & 8. Leading scientists, conservationists and landowners will meet to make recommendations for the survival of greater sage-grouse in Alberta. They will develop a set of emergency actions as well as longer-term recommendations.

For more information:

  • Cliff Wallis, AWA Past President:          (403) 607-1970
  • Nigel Douglas, AWA Conservation Specialist:    (403) 283-2025