In 1985, Bureau of Land Management ecologist Alan Sands located a population of Columbian sharp-tailed grouse near Weiser, the only known population in the western part of the state.
The Nature Conservancy worked with Tim and Karen Hixon, committed conservationists, to purchase nearly 4000 acres of private land up for sale, and worked with the BLM to help protect 30,000 acres as critical habitat for these grouse.
Today, Alan Sands works for the Conservancy as an ecologist, and still has a keen interest in the success of this project. Although Columbian sharp-tailed grouse have been in decline throughout their range, at the Hixon Sharptail area the grouse have actually been increasing! This past year was the highest grouse count yet, and the grouse are actually expanding beyond the preserve. Sage grouse are also doing well on this preserve.
Conservation takes time. While The Nature Conservancy is no longer acquiring or protecting new property in this area, this project continues to play an important role in grouse conservation.