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This goofy bird vs. the fossil fuel industry


These people are on a pilgrimage. They’re in one of the most remote parts of the United States, to see something
spectacular that happens every year. An icon of the American West. This is a sage grouse. And this is its mating dance. The sage grouse once numbered in the
millions across this entire region. But today, they are on the verge of endangerment. And the area they live on has shrunk by half. That’s a problem. And
not just because it’s fun to look at. It’s because the sage grouse is actually
really important. And to understand why, you have to understand its dance. This is a female sage grouse. And this is a male sage grouse. During mating season, it’s big and flamboyant looking, all so that it can attract mates. It’s sort of like a peacock in that way. The spiky tail, the puffed out chest —
they don’t serve a clear function except to be attractive. These white feathers on
its chest are rough and spiky. And for the first step of its dance, the
sage-grouse takes a deep breath and it swishes its wings against those spiky feathers. It sounds like this this. These yellow things are its vocal sac. It’s
actually one esophagus with a strong muscle in the center. When the sage grouse takes in a gulp of air, it contracts. When it breathes out. the vocal
sac pops. That sounds like this. Female sage grouse can hear these sounds from up to two miles away. And then it’s a competition. The strongest male dancers crowd out the weaker ones. The winner gets to mate with most of the females. After they mate, the females go up to ten miles away to nest. But this arena, where the competition goes down, that place stays the same every year. Sage grouse live across this whole vast
area. But year after year, they each come back to do the courtship ritual in the same exact spot: One of these blue dots. It’s why sage-grouse watchers always
know where to find them. That mating area is called a lek. And it’s a big part of why sage grouse matter so much. Coming back to the same place every year means that sage grouse are really easy to keep track of. Some leks have been monitored
by researchers for more than 75 years. They’re so easy to count that
conservationists consider them an indicator species. That means they use the number of sage grouse as a sort of proxy for how healthy the entire
sagebrush ecosystem is. If sage grouse are doing well, there’s a good chance that elk, and pygmy rabbits, and the 350 plant and animal species in the region are doing okay too. That also means that if you want to protect wildlife in the American West, figuring out how to protect the
sage grouse is a good strategy. In 2008, Wyoming implemented a new policy aimed
at protecting the bird. It ended up also having major benefits for another animal — the mule deer. But because sage grouse are so easy to count, we also know that they are in trouble. The lek is where the sage grouse mates, but it’s just the epicenter of a much larger range where they live. And in order for them to keep
coming back to the lek to reproduce, sage grouse need the entire range to be
undisturbed. That means if human activity alters this
range, they tend to not return to the lek — they don’t reproduce. Montana started keeping track of sage grouse leks in 2002. Since then, their population in the
state has fallen by nearly half. There are a lot of reasons for this
decline — invasive plant species, wildfires, but a big one is drilling and mining. “Western states have increased production dramatically in recent years.” “A huge amount of new oil.” “Oil, coal, and natural gas dominates the landscape and the economy.” Wyoming has the most sage grouse of any state. Here’s a map of leks in Wyoming. And these are oil and gas fields. In 2015, governors from four states announced a plan with the federal government to protect the sage grouse. It banned mineral mining across ten million acres
of sage grouse habitat. And it restricted oil and gas leasing in 13,000 square miles of the most critical habitat areas. It was hailed as the largest conservation effort in US history. But today, Donald Trump’s administration isn’t enforcing the restrictions on oil and gas leasing. And it canceled the ban on mining here. And the numbers reflect that: since he took office, oil and gas leasing on public land in the US has skyrocketed. And on land the 2015 plan was supposed to protect, leasing has gone up tenfold. Today, officials predict that sage grouse numbers will keep falling. The sage grouse is an indicator species. It means that the sage grouse can tell you a lot about the health of the entire
sagebrush ecosystem, across the American West. But they can also indicate
something about American policy. About the power that fossil fuel and mining companies have over government. About what we choose to protect. And what we don’t.

100 thoughts on “This goofy bird vs. the fossil fuel industry

  1. Yeah I really don't want to see any species on North America Raquel extinct well you know man always greeted get the best of them

  2. It amazes me that the sounds those birds make were almost exactly the sounds my mind automatically inserted when I saw the .gif of the bird yesterday. Which I’m pretty sure were cartoon sounds.

  3. Thank you, Vox, for making this video showcasing the danger Sage Grouse habits face. Very informative and really enjoyed the fact that you pointed out the importance of conservation, protecting habitats and larger ranges, and the power money-interests play in the hindering of environmental conservation. California has a great example of this: The Ghost Town of Bodi. It's a preserved Gold Country Ghost Town with Sage Grouse inhabiting the surrounding area. Mining was supposed to take place in that area, which of course would've decimated the Sage Grouse population. But luckily it never got off the ground and now the area is protected by California Parks. Now we all get to enjoy these really cool creatures that are a part of our cultural fabric and ecosystem here out West. 🙂

  4. It sound like the sage grass is doomed to fail because of the Male's biological inefficiency kinda like pandas, bad designs are doomed to fail.

  5. As someone who absolutely loves weird birds and hates humanity, but also whos livelihood depends on the oil and gas industry..i am so conflicted

  6. Let's do mining next to bars and clubs 😀

    We should do the same thing to humans, limiting their LEKs! When we reduce human reproduction speed, other animals will be happy 🙂

  7. Beautiful story, and reason we need to protect our sensitive federal lands and local government authority to conserve these areas

  8. Hmmm. I do believe that the entire east coast of the United States was occupied by other animals and even other people at one time. Allow the western states to manage their own sovereign land. You want way too much land removed from being used however people choose to use it, yet most people pushing these views live in places where nearly all land is available in some way.

  9. none of you see that global warming has actually been leading to the destruction of the human race …you people have invested more money into its study than trying to create eco-friendly power sources ….and the ones that did charged so much for the greener alternatives that people could not afford them …also your scientists are in the politicians back pocket ….the added weight of water is compressing magma beneath the mantel under the earth's thinnest type of crust the oceanic plates …please look at the increase in the seismic activity around the pacific ring of fire ( where there are 425 + active volcanos they will vent and we are headed into a long volcanic winter…..i found something that added to this prediction in the Bible in the latter part of a verse found ay Revelation11:18 it says " and the time came for God to destroy those destroying the earth" written almost 2000 years ago for a warning " upon those whom the end of this system has come" these are seemingly strange …since the scientific community hasn't warned us yet,,,, do you really think they will?…..think, people.

  10. Ok but …. I’m … Emm no I’m not gonna say that I’m not child … but also what come on that 😂 that’s a 😂 nope I see nothing wierd there

  11. Lot of people just blame Trump cause apparently it’s his fault when actually it’s the business of the gas and oil Company Trump doesn’t own them. it should be the Federal government fault because they protect the land and own them and put laws into it Cause they own a lot of the land.

    I see every news sight let’s just blame Trump for everything and including the environment when in fact everyone is doing something bad that affects the environment.

    And if so why didn’t Obama do anything about it I can see the chart and it goes straight. You can see from him being in office I don’t see anything done?

    And if so lol if Trump doesn’t get elected I bet that no President will ever fix the problem…

  12. so.. it's kind of like dragonflies which lives by the clean water as an indicator species but this is bird… '-')

  13. Thanks. Also, I’ve heard things like fencing, ecological succession, brush Management, road and trail development also contribute to habitat loss for sage grouse. I think anyone in rangeland, wildlife management etc. definitely hear about sage grouse at some point.

  14. Thanks for this video, this video helps many people have some awareness about the policy making in U. S. & your channel being a whistleblower!!! 💪💪😊👌👌👍

  15. Now I’m having flashbacks to the 90s when I used to watch documentaries about the Sage grouse on national geographic without someone’s political biases getting in the way…

  16. This hole video is a lie just because altering the environment hurts the indicator species does not mean that the hole ecosystem is being hurt just the indicator species. Also that bird is huge in hunting and the states have started lifting the ban on the hunting of that bid so the video producers where obviously miss informed and need to do a little bit more research on the topic at hand

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