Spring in Idaho’s sagebrush steppe brings about a spectacular scene: the mating dance of greater sage-grouse. Sage-grouse males gather together on dancing grounds called leks for the equivalent of an avian dance-off while the females look on and feign disinterest.

Sage-grouse are also the center of West-wide controversy over how to balance wildlife with other demands on our public lands. Sage-grouse habitat has shrunk to 40% of its original acreage and the population is thought to be less than 5% of historic numbers. Over the last several years, the State of Idaho and Bureau of Land Management worked together on a collaborative plan to protect sage-grouse.

The BLM used this plan as a template and developed a set of conservation measures to better protect sage-grouse. Based on these plans, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that sage-grouse do not need protections under the Endangered Species Act.

The Idaho Conservation League was involved in this process and we offered a glass-is-half-full assessment of the sage-grouse situation last fall.

Much has happened since then, with the State of Idaho litigating on one side because state leaders thought the final plans strayed too far from the State’s recommendations and added too many restrictions. At the same time, several environmental groups are litigating these same plans because they feel the plans do not go far enough in protecting sage-grouse from climate change and other factors.

In spite of these different perspectives, there is still a lot of collaboration going on and some conservation work is getting done. However, much more needs to be done.

To learn the latest sage-grouse news, attend the "Politics for Lunch" program on Tuesday, Mar 22. Here is a description of the program:

Much of our part of the west has been embroiled in one of the biggest public land issues of our time, what do about the sage grouse. The threat of an endangered species listing brought a variety of groups together to try and find collaborative ways to protect this key habitat.   Six months later, the strategy seems to be working.

As a result, many think this may be a sign of a better way to solve our public lands problems. Join the Statesman‘s Rocky Barker and Idaho’s Office of Species Conservation Administrator Dustin Miller as they discuss this major public lands issue.

You can register for the event here.