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Scouts, NRCS Work to Keep Sage-Grouse Off Endangered Species List

August 2013

As Western states work to keep sage-grouse off of the endangered species list, a Boy Scout troop in Billings, Mont., is trying to do its part too.  Troop 399 recently teamed up with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to mark fences at the Downs Ranch in Roundup, Mont. 

The small, white, rectangular markers are small additions that make a great difference in the number of sage-grouse colliding with fences.  Research shows markers reduced collisions by 83 percent, a statistic that helped Matt Light decide to mark fences for his Eagle Scout Service Project.  

“I've always been interested in birds,” Light said.  “This was a good opportunity for me to learn more about sage-grouse.”  Learning more is exactly what he did—with the help of Brandon Moss, founder of Sage-Grouse Montana (www.sagegrousemt.com), an organization  working to increase the number of sage-grouse in Montana.  “Before Brandon, I knew very little about sage-grouse,” Light said.  “Brandon put me in contact with the people at NRCS, where I learned all about the sage-grouse and their rituals.”

“This was my big project.  I had to get all the information about the project, how long it would take, background about the sage-grouse, explain how they live, and why I was putting up flags.”

Light presented information to the scout board for approval; however, his first submission was rejected.  But that didn’t stop him from trying again.

“I needed a little more info about the sage-grouse in the area,” Light said.  “So I added the information and submitted it again.”

This time his project was approved, and he quickly got to work.  He received a $264 grant from the Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society to buy the supplies. Staff members at COR Enterprises Inc., a disability service organization in Billings, cut the vinyl.

Soon after, he told his scout group about his project, and they agreed to help him out.

Early Saturday morning on March 9, 2013, Light and the troop met in Billings and drove to Roundup.  More than 20 volunteers helped, and after five hours, they had marked five miles of fence.

“It's a good way to teach young kids about what will happen if sage-grouse is placed on the endangered species list,” Moss said.

Light said this was one of his most rewarding experiences as a Boy Scout. 

“I learned about sage-grouse and how they live,” he said.  “I also learned more about responsibility and what all it takes to put on a service project.”

As for Sage-Grouse Montana, they are still working with NRCS to get even more scouts out to mark fences.

“The scouts are seeing how the sage-grouse affects rural communities, and how it will affect them if it is named as an endangered species,” Moss said.  “They want to help, they want to learn more.”

enny Paddock of Roundup NRCS pointing to the map of the fences that were marked.

Jenny Paddock of Roundup NRCS points to the map of the fences that were marked

Matt Light, Eagle Scout, and the volunteers marked about five miles of fence.

Matt Light, Eagle Scout, and the volunteers marked about five miles of fence.

Jenny Paddock instructing the volunteers.

Jenny Paddock, NRCS, instructs the volunteers.