Eagle Scout Leadership Helps the BLM and Sage Grouse

The following article was contributed by Kyle Hendrix, public affairs officer with the Bureau of Land Management’s Battle Mountain District in Nevada. This story is part of the People of the Sage campaign by SageWest.

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Greater Sage-grouse conservation is one of the top priorities for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the agency is constantly looking for partnership opportunities that lend themselves to this effort. One of these opportunities presented itself to the BLM’s Battle Mountain District when a phone call came into the office from a local Boy Scout named Ryan who had taken an interest in sage grouse and was in search of a project to complete his requirements for becoming an Eagle Scout. After contacting the BLM, Ryan worked closely with their experts to develop a project plan. Key elements of the plan included selecting locations within the district that are considered primary habitat for sage grouse, establishing a conservation method that would be achievable given his timeframes, and coordinating with Nevada Area Boy Scout Council to have his project approved.

After reviewing potential project sites and methods, Ryan and BLM Wildlife Biologist Dave Davis decided that fence marking would best fit the needs of the bird and Ryan's project. Fence marking is being used throughout the west and involves placing small reflective markers along fence lines near sage grouse habitat and breeding grounds to reduce collision related deaths. Research has shown that sage grouse have a difficult time seeing fences in low light levels and sometimes suffer injury or death after collision. Research also shows that fence marking reduces collision death by as much as 80%. 

This winter, several BLM specialists joined Ryan in the field to identify exactly what fence line should be marked, how many miles of marking he would be able to achieve, and a strategy to accomplish everything safely. Ryan coordinated with BLM to put his plan in action and organized a group of Boy Scouts to help install markers. This spring, the group met at the Battle Mountain District Office where Ryan explained to his fellow boy scouts the importance of sage grouse conservation, what the day would look like from a logistical standpoint, and gave a message of thanks to those involved with his Eagle Scout project.

The day’s efforts were extremely successful, with the group marking nearly three miles of fence line located in some of the best sage grouse habitat found in the Battle Mountain District. The District is thrilled with how the project went and would like to congratulate Ryan on his leadership in this effort and achieving the rank of Eagle Scout while encouraging scouts to contact the district regarding conservation partnership opportunities!

Hannah Ryan