Tom Puchlerz

As someone who loves spending time in Montana’s vast prairies, I’ve been fortunate to witness the sage grouse perform their mating dance. The males puff out their chests, pop their air sacs, and fan their tail feathers every morning in the spring to attract mates.

In my lifetime, the greater sage-grouse population has declined by an alarming 80%. Because of this decline, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is revising its sage grouse management plans on over 67 million acres across 11 western states. The new management plans attempt to use the latest scientific data to strike a balance between conservation and local land uses, all while promoting collaboration between federal, state and local entities to commit to the bird's recovery.

The BLM is seeking public input on the proposed changes to land management to conserve sagebrush habitat. The proposed changes include measures to minimize and compensate for impacts on sage grouse, such as establishing protective zones around sage grouse mating areas, managing mineral development and livestock grazing in certain areas, placing limits on habitat disturbances, managing wild horse and burro populations, and preventing renewable energy projects from being built in important sage grouse habitats.

As stewards of Montana—hunters, anglers, and conservationists—it's our responsibility to advocate for policies that safeguard these habitats. The fragmentation of our sagebrush ecosystem is not only hurting sage grouse, but other wildlife and ecological communities that depend on it. That’s why I’ll be commenting to protect the last remaining intact areas of sagebrush habitat- such as the High Divide, the Hi-Line and Southeast Montana.

The public comment period for these amendments is open until June 13. This is our chance to support a plan that protects our wide-open spaces. I urge everyone to participate and support the BLM's efforts to identify and protect the last remaining intact areas of sagebrush.