Time to check out your nearby National Grassland to see if they have equivalent opportunities. Otherwise plan a trip to Ft. Pierre. My sources tell me it is a great experience.
Here’s an article.
Through May 31, you can watch and listen to grouse mate at the Fort Pierre National Grassland.
The U.S. Forest Service has three unheated plywood viewing blinds (one donated by the Missouri Breaks Audobon Society in Pierre) that birdwatchers can reserve to watch the display.
You can squeeze about four people into the blind, and you’ll want to be inside before sunrise so you don’t spook the birds too much.
After you’re in, being quiet and waiting for the grouse to un-flush, take some time to check out the other birds flitting around: western meadowlarks, killdeer, ducks and more.
Apart from that, the Forest Service offers these tips:
■ Dress warmly and bring a blanket. I wore coveralls and was not sorry, especially with the heavy mist and fog. A thermos of steaming hot truckstop coffee also served me well.
■ Bring binoculars, a spotting scope or a camera with telephoto lens. A flashlight will help navigate the dark.
■ Find your blind sometime the day before you’re scheduled to sit in it. Lots easier to find the turnoff in sunlight.
■ Forest Service roads become difficult to navigate in wet weather. Bring a four-wheel-drive car or park on the highway shoulder, if in doubt.
All in all, it’s well worth the drive. To reserve your spot, call the Fort Pierre Forest Service office at 605-224-5517.
Although the safeguards and regulations — if put in place and adhered to — do seem to promise that any drilling will be conducted as environmentally friendly as possible, this page is waiting for a better explanation of why the leasing is being done in the first place.
Considering the rising price of oil and gas, finding new supplies would seem a justification; however, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service told The Star that it was unlikely that much of the land would ever be drilled.
If that is the case, if there is not much chance oil or gas could be profitably extracted, then why lease the land and raise fears and concerns that are currently rising?
Is this a way to raise money for a financially strapped agency, or to help reduce the national deficit?
And why was there so little notification that the leasing would take place? Calhoun County Commissioner Tim Hodges, in whose district some of the land lies, did not know of the plan until it was announced. Courtesy, if nothing else, should at least require that local officials be told of what was in the offing.
As so often happens when a federal agency decides to do something, the need to explain those actions seems of little importance. This adds to the widely held belief that bureaucrats do things because they can, and the public be damned.
Rather than create another case of agency insensitivity, the BLM and the Forest Service need to step back, delay the sale and explain to the public why their plan is good for those who own the land — keeping in mind that a “National Forest” belongs to the nation, not to the agencies that oversee it.
Note from Sharon: I thought oil and gas leasing occurred due to Congress’s (elected officials) intentions, and the agencies are following through on the results of energy legislation. Apparently they decided that the leasing program is “good for those who own the land.” There does seem to be more controversy over energy uses of public lands in the east than the west, although there is plenty in the west as well.