Grousing over chickens

It’s a battleground

What would Teddy Roosevelt do about the sage grouse?

What would Teddy Roosevelt do about the sage grouse?

Since when do we treat folks who disagree with us as enemies?

Is your commute to work a war zone? Do you battle your way through the grocery store? Are there thieves camped outside your door?

One consultant advised a call to arms when he lectured leaders in the oil and gas industry.

His views on how to best position your cause is to consider the opposition as an enemy that needs to be destroyed.

“Think of this as an endless war,” the consultant advised the crowd.

The speaker is Richard Berman, and the New York Times got a copy of his talk and made it public.

Berman delivered bullet points that reveal a calloused view of human-kind.

“Marginalize the people on the other side,” in efforts to sway a mindless public that your views are superior.

The Machiavellian position applies to the current ruckus over threatened species in Middle America.

Wind turbines threaten a prairie chicken species, and the population has been halved as a result of weather and windmills.

Seems the wild chicken won’t mate near the towers.

The sage grouse made similar headlines because wind turbines and fracking rigs spoil their habitat, according to Newsweek.

Rather than hammer out strategies to cope with a range of interests, consultants like Berman want to replace the hammer with an assault rifle.

Berman encourages combatants to use fear, anger and greed.

Clearly the issue over protecting wildlife runs deep, and it’s just as clear we demand fuel to drive cars and heat our homes.

Surely we can arrive at the table with more than winning a war and destroying the enemy on our minds.

But Berman says, “you can either win ugly or lose pretty.”

Today’s New York Times reminds us that environmental issues don’t have to be partisan: Republican Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed into the law the Endangered Species Act.

Teddy Roosevelt, another Republican, was a lifetime conservationist and hunter who expanded the national parks and wrote lovingly of the sage grouse—who is at the heart of the current controversy.

Roosevelt writes that the sage cock is “handsome” and the size of a young turkey with a “long pointed tail and black belly, and is a very characteristic form of the regions which it inhabits.”

Found in the grassy plains, the grouse “seems really to prefer the dry arid wastes where the withered-looking sage-brush and the spiney cactus are almost the only plants to be found, and where the few pools of water are so bitterly alkaline as to be nearly undrinkable,” Roosevelt writes.

The call of the male grouse is unforgettable, and resonates like a deep whoop-whoop when you hear him (but can’t see him).

“The cocks of this great bird become very noisy in the early spring,” Roosevelt recalls.

“If a man happens at that season to be out in the dry plains which are frequented by the sage fowl he will hear in the morning, before sunrise, the deep, sonorous booming of the cocks, as they challenge one another or call to their mates.

“This call is uttered in a hollow, bass tone, and can be heard a long distance in still weather; it is difficult to follow up, for it has a very ventriloquial effect.”

Roosevelt’s recollections warm my heart.

I can just imagine my ancestors—settlers and Indians alike—searching out grouse and prairie chickens for supper, ever mindful they shared their surroundings with the wildlife.

I know it’s a romantic view but maybe we can bring romance to the battlefield.






About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in american indian, framing, Indian, journalism, native american, Native Science, prairie chicken, sage grouse, science, science communication, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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