Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sailing the Sagebrush Sea

Wednesday, May 20, on your local PBS station. For more info on the film go here.

 It is easy, being trapped in a never-ending and rapidly escalating case of shifting baseline syndrome, to forget about how fundamentally altered the Great Plains region is from what it once was. When you see period photos of early settlers stoically looking out over a helluva lot of nothing, and then you look out your car window and see what, at first through tenth glances, seems to be pretty much the same damn thing, it tends to skew how you view the plains.

Such is their lot, with no pretty mountains, no anthropomorphized trees named Luna, no eco-tourism, no X-games venues, and no prairie hippies chaining themselves to the buffalo grass or sagebrush. The plains, our national cathedral of space, wind, and sky, suffer the myriad indignities and abuses of our industrialized world virtually without advocacy or protest or concern. Because, after all, there's just not a helluva lot out there.

Except of course, that there is a helluva lot out there, or used to be; a world now relegated to scattered little pockets here and there, especially on the southern plains, where sage grouse and sharptails did indeed once live, not that long ago. The southern plains, for all their romance and vistas and immense space and distance between points of habitation, are a broken and tamed land, utterly subjegated. For a variety of reason both cultural and political, they are parceled, fragmented, and industrialized beyond any form of landscape-level rehabilitation, or even protection of what little remains.  

But the northern plains are a different kettle of grouse. Thanks to the inherent evils of the Socialist idea of public land, millions of acres of native sagebrush prairie still remain, at least for the time being. For now, you own it. So do yourself a favor and take the time to learn a little about it. There's a helluva lot to see, out in there in the middle of nothing.           


  1. Thanks for the tip Chad. I watch so little TV any more that there's zero chance I would have stumbled into this.

    Just out of curiosity, any idea why the Blogs I Dig section on your site vibrates from time to time? I thought it was my aging eyes but the rest of the site sits still. Same deal on Mike Sepelak's site ( in his ad section.

  2. ...the windshield splitting gravel road between Ekalaka and Alzada was completed a few years ago...took over fifty years of political infighting to get it done. The closest rail head to Carter County is in Fallon County, 42 miles away.Fewer than 400 people live in the county seat, several thousand in the county...Sage grouse still thrive here...ranches remain in ever increasing size. Open gates on private lands, vast holdings of BLM to the south.It is all I ever wanted...and I do not think we will see it again. The political climate in America will see to it...and we will all be poorer for it. But I will continue to run my 3 bird dogs, kick gravel and drink a beer with the ranchers, and remember what a time I had.