Barbed wire by Doug Cooper: Saving the sage grouse with words | TSLN.com

Barbed wire by Doug Cooper: Saving the sage grouse with words

I had the bad luck to sit behind the guy from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at a sage grouse meeting this week. As the meeting droned on I couldn't help noticing that he was the largest person in the room. I didn't think it was an accident that caused him to out-weigh a sumo wrestler. He looked like the human personification of the federal government. A leviathon in Levis.

I don't think bureaucrats are born that way. They are forged, or maybe molded would be a better word, by their careers. Congealing in a thousand boring meetings after reading countless mind numbing texts to learn the acronymns and arcane ways of the agencies. They serve masters that we would never fathom. More than a few times it makes them mean. If you did the same thing to the family dog, PETA would feature you on television commercials.

Imagine a life that doesn't produce anything that is tangible and unfortunately you might glimpse what their careers are all about. They don't get to load a truck with fine wool that will make high quality clothing. They don't get to see those good steers cross the scales that will feed the hungry and provide by-products from sutures to medicine that we all need. At worst they fill up a hard drive with data bits that will be recycled later. At best they wield power, which is drug few can handle.

How and why governments do what they do is often a mystery. I read where an Englishman observed that in his country they import workers from the third world to work so that the people on welfare didn't need to have a job. Here we create a wildlife priesthood to make rules for us that are so far removed from the land that their work is an abstraction. In their world, words are substitutes for real actions. Use enough words and the sage grouse might be saved. If that doesn't do the trick they can always offer some kind of cost share or payments, but always with strings attached.

Like a Roman Emperor watching gladiators fight, the Fish and Wildlife man occasionally made a comment during the meeting whenever the sage grouse team started deviating from the party line. A thumb held pointed down would have been too dramatic, but his words had the same purpose. Today, the man that can influence whether the sage grouse is listed always has an audience.