A Poetic Tribute To “Wild Things” And The Private Landowners Who Protect Them

June 27, 2016

Photo: Ken Miracle

“Livestock and grouse can be on the same page, and persist side by side in a vast sea of sage”

In the Continental United States, two-thirds of the land is privately owned. Much of this land consists of working farms, ranches, and forests, which provide crucial habitat for wildlife as well as vital ecosystem services like clean water and healthy soil.

The Sage Grouse Initiative is part of the USDA-NRCS’ Working Lands for Wildlife program, a nationwide effort that supports private landowners who integrate wildlife-friendly conservation practices. On the sagebrush sea, the future of the iconic sage grouse — along with 350+ other species that depend on healthy, intact sage-steppe habitat — depends on the conservation ethic of the ranchers who steward these precious landscapes.

The following poem by Ritch Nelson, USDA-NRCS Nebraska State Wildlife Biologist, honors the roots of these landowners’ conservation ethic, and highlights their many successes in conserving our nation’s wildlife. Enjoy!

Wild Things 

A wise man named Aldo, once wrote of ‘wild things’
The chance to find a pasque flower; chart when a bird sings.

The delight these things offer to enrich our lives.
The harmony of nature for which man strives.

He joined up with Bennet on Wisconsin’s small farms,
For good soil and water, to keep critters from harm.

T’was back in the thirties but the concept lives on.
Conserve the resource before it is gone.

Degraded landscapes are taking a toll.
Private landowners play a critical role.

Much wildlife lives on our working lands.
We can save these key species if we all lend a hand.


The chickens that range ‘cross the southern High Plains;
Where ranchers and partners are taking great pains,

To restore the grassland and supply more fodder.
Nest success up; prescribed fires burn hotter.

While in the southeast, down under the pines,
Plans for the tortoise are making headlines.

For they offer many a critter a home,
In burrows dug deep in the sandy loam.

The outlook now better for a small, lowly toad.
When we partner together and take a new road.

Out west in the spring a large bird is booming,
And meanwhile threats to its life-blood are looming.

But livestock and grouse can be on the same page;
Persist side by side in a vast sea of sage.

Throughout Appalachia, a warbler calls out –
Counted in data, the biologists tout.

In southwest Montana a new day now dawns;
Streams clear and free-flowing where the grayling will spawn.

The bunny fares better with succession set back;
With the woodcock and ruffed grouse also on track.

The Oregon chub, a small fish – delisted;
Thriving in floodplains with oxbows so twisted.

Big rivers that flow through the land of the bear,
Support wooded swamps on lands we now share.

And with each new cub, the black bear secures
A more solid footing, their future endures.


All that is done, the efforts we take,
Is for the whole sum, not just for the sake,

Of one target species but rather the web;
The cogs on a wheel, as time flows and ebbs.

There’ll always be more ‘wild things’ to conserve;
To be more proactive and not just observe.

Rural communities of neighbors and friends,
Are much more complex for they do extend,

To soil and water, plants, animals, air –
The whole ecosystem for which we care.

For shouldn’t we love, admire and respect?
To build a land ethic to help us connect,
The humans to resources, we dare not neglect.

Pulling together, we now take a stand
To follow our calling, helping people help the land!

Read more about Working Lands for Wildlife HERE in their new magazine!

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.