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Sage Grouse Brings Interior Secretary Jewell to Lakeview

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014   

LAKEVIEW, Ore. - Southern Oregon will get a rare visit from a Cabinet-level official on Thursday, as U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell gets a VIP tour of sage-grouse habitat and what's being done to preserve it in this remote high desert.

What Jewell will find in Lake County, said Brandi St. Clair, a wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, is a spirit of cooperation and a common goal - to keep sage grouse off the endangered species list.

"All of the agencies and organizations that do all these habitat projects, we work very well together. We all get along, we all want the same thing," she said. "And when she comes here, I think she's going to be very impressed with the work that we've been able to do, on public and private ground."

The greater sage grouse relies on sagebrush for food and shelter, and St. Clair said invasive juniper is overtaking desert land and affecting habitat for other wildlife species as well.

Jewell's tour will include a look at some of the headway that agencies and private landowners have made to reduce the juniper growth, minimize wildfires and still allow grazing and outdoor recreation.

Preserving sage grouse habitat has been a local priority for at least 15 years, said Lake County rancher John O'Keeffe, with accelerated efforts in the past six or seven years. He said he's pleased to be able to show some results, and adds that there will be more.

"I think it's a tremendous opportunity to showcase what the partners - private and state and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) - are doing for the sage grouse," he said. "It doesn't happen overnight, but it's fast for this type of habitat work. So, it needs an opportunity to work."

While cattlemen and conservationists don't always see eye to eye, said O'Keeffe, who serves as president of the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, both groups want to keep greater sage grouse from being listed as endangered in the West. The federal government is under a court order to decide by next year.

Jewell's tour begins at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the Lakeview Interagency Office, 1301 S. G St., Lakeview.


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