Courtney Conway had a big ask for a handful of Idaho ranchers in sage grouse country.
“Each rancher, we’re asking them to take a pasture that they’re accustomed to using and to not put any cows in there for at least four years," says the biologist with the Idaho Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.
Conway is helping lead a team of biologists who are four years in to a 10-year study looking at how grazing impacts sage grouse in the Gem State. The scientist says they were able to convince ranchers to let them manipulate how and where they graze their herds with this argument:
“Some of those policies that are put in place are not based on rigorous science, they’re often based on opinion, only because we don’t have rigorous studies that have documented the effects of different experimental grazing treatments because these kind of experiments have never been done.”
Sage grouse numbers have taken a nose dive in recent decades, and grazing is commonly considered one of the factors contributing to their decline.
Conway says it’s far too early to share the results of the study, but that they hope to help inform the debate around sage grouse management within and beyond Idaho’s borders once research wraps up in six years.
Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill
Copyright 2017 Boise State Public Radio