A recent article by local birder and conservationist Terry Rich inspires me to speak out (again) for Sagebrush. As you may know, there has been a stunning and tragic decline in North American songbird populations over the last 50 years. These declines are analyzed by habitat type. The data shows that birds of the Western Forests have not declined seriously, but ‘Aridland’ bird populations have plummeted, by about 25%. These are the birds of our dominant native landscape, the Sagebrush Steppe.
If you are new to the Intermountain West, the Sagebrush desert may strike you as desolate, uninhabited. But a healthy Sagebrush ecosystem supports a huge variety of fauna and flora: badgers and pronghorn, lizards and toads, grasses and flowers, a wealth of insects. And birds—hawks, sparrows, flycatchers and meadowlarks—many songbirds plus the iconic Greater Sage-Grouse.
It’s easy to love the beautiful flowering plants of our gardens. Harder, perhaps, to love Sagebrush—until you see it as the anchor, the rock on which so many other species rely. So, here’s to Sagebrush and a healthy New Year!