Montana Eagle Scout Leads Effort to Mark Fences for Sage Grouse

September 26, 2013



By Byrhonda Lyons, public affairs specialist, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bozeman, Montana

 Matt Light, a Boy Scout from Billings, Montana, completed an ambitious project last spring for his Eagle Scout Service Project, one that he hopes will make a difference for sage grouse that are facing major declines across their range.  Through his leadership, Troop 399 recently teamed up with the NRCS Sage Grouse Initiative to mark fences at the Downs Ranch near Roundup, in the heart of sage grouse country.

The small, white, rectangular markers are small additions that make a great difference in reducing the number of sage grouse colliding with fences.  Research shows markers reduce collisions by 83 percent, a statistic that helped Light decide to take on the project.fencmarkercloseup 

“I’ve always been interested in birds,” Light said.  “This was a good opportunity for me to learn more about sage grouse.” 

Learning more is exactly what he did—with the help of Brandon Moss, also of Billings, who often volunteers for sage grouse.  “Before Brandon, I knew very little about sage-grouse,” Light said.  “Brandon put me in contact with the people at NRCS, where I learned all about the sage-grouse and their rituals.”

“This was my big project,” he said. “ I had to get all the information about the project, how long it would take, background about the sage-grouse, explain how they live, and why I was putting up flags.”

Light presented information to the scout board for approval; however, his first submission was rejected.  But that didn’t stop him from trying again.

“I needed a little more info about the sage grouse in the area,” Light said.  “So I added the information and submitted it again.” 

This time his project was approved, and he quickly got to work.  He received a $264 grant from the Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society to buy the supplies. Staff members at COR Enterprises Inc., a disability service organization in Billings, cut the vinyl markers.

Soon after, he told his scout group about his project and they agreed to help him out.


Jenny Paddock, NRCS in Roundup, instructs the volunteers

Early Saturday morning on March 9, 2013, Light and the troop met in Billings and drove an hour north to Roundup.  More than 20 volunteers helped, and after five hours, they had marked five miles of fence.

Light said this was one of his most rewarding experiences as a Boy Scout.  “I learned about sage grouse and how they live,” he said.  “I also learned more about responsibility and what all it takes to put on a service project.”

Find out  more about fence marking:
Proactive Conservation: fence-marking
Fence Marking Instructions
The Science Behind Fence-Marking
Applying the Sage-Grouse Fence Collision Risk Tool to Reduce Bird Strikes
Wildlife-Friendly Fencing Guide
COR Enterprises (Where We Work Map, Click on Montana)


The Sage Grouse Initiative is a partnership-based, science-driven effort that uses voluntary incentives to proactively conserve America’s western rangelands, wildlife, and rural way of life. This initiative is part of Working Lands For Wildlife, which is led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.