County big enough for sage grouse, too

When my ancestors arrived in Utah in 1850, an estimated 10 million elk roamed North America. But over the next several decades, unregulated hunting and loss of habitat decimated those herds to fewer than 100,000 animals.

My father, who was born in 1907, said that when he was a young boy in Salina, Utah, no one there had seen any elk or deer for many years. When one of his uncles killed a two-point buck, everyone in town showed up to see it.

In 1922, 40,000 of the remaining North American elk were in and around Yellowstone National Park and the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole (protected areas). From that herd, the reintroduction of elk back into their historic western ranges began. By 1995, more than 870,000 elk roamed North America. In Colorado alone there were about 203,000. Thanks to the intervention of many state and federal agencies, and other interested parties, species like bison, peregrine falcons, wild turkeys, bald eagles, cranes, and salmon have also survived. Because of forward-thinking, dedicated professionals and careful management, we and future generations can enjoy and, yes, even profit from wildlife. Just think how much economic loss our county would suffer if fishing and hunting couldn’t happen because there wasn’t any wildlife left. What would your personal loss would be if you never got to see any of these animals?

In recent weeks I have learned that our county commissioners are trying to pass an ordinance that, according to Larry Don Suckla, will exclude the endangered Gunnison sage grouse from Montezuma County (Journal, March 14). I assume that our commissioners oppose the protection of threatened species here because they, or some of their constituents, think that it will somehow infringe on their rights. But I feel that the presence of wildlife is a huge benefit. At one time these birds apparently lived in our neck of the woods, since that area by McPhee Reservoir has long been known as Sage Hen.

I think Montezuma County is big enough for a few sage chickens.

Fred Bird

Cortez