Cows and sage grouse hens sharing wet meadow. Photo: Ken Miracle.
Maintaining an “emerald island” in the middle of the desert is no small task. Here’s how the Fitzgeralds do it.
Eleanor Fitzgerald, Joseph Utley, her son, and Colin McKenzie, her nephew, stand on a dusty outcrop among sage and bitterbrush. Below them, 12 Mile Creek paints a dark green ribbon across the otherwise drab landscape.
Sights like this are rare in Oregon’s sagebrush country. Wet meadows occupy less than 2 percent of the sage-steppe region, yet provide habitat for over 350 dependent species, and support cattle grazing.
The Sage Grouse Initiative led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) partners with ranchers in Oregon and across the West to enhance habitat for sage grouse and improve working lands.
By managing wet meadows, combating invasive species, and grazing strategically, sage grouse and other wildlife flourish. It just so happens these practices also benefit livestock by way of higher quality food and more variety throughout the year.