Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2004


Published in Great Plains Research Vol. 14, No. 1, 2004. Copyright © 2004 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


The first two chapters of Grassland Grouse deal with the extinction of the heath hen and the almost certain disappearance of the Attwater's prairie chicken. They paint an accurate but thoroughly depressing picture of these losses. Paul Johnsgard clearly points out how, despite our "best" efforts, populations can slip into extinction. In these initial chapters, he sounds an alarm over the plight of a unique group of North American birds and their rapidly disappearing habitats.

The three middle chapters, which describe the status and population trends of lesser prairie chickens, greater prairie chickens, and sharp-tailed grouse, all species indigenous to the Great Plains, provide valuable insight into changes in Great Plains landscapes and their effects on native grouse. Johnsgard thoroughly documents changes in the populations and habitats of these species and also describes the impact agricultural development within the Great Plains has had on them. His synthesis carries an easily detected undertone of warning that these grouse species could follow the fate of the heath hen. Intended or not, these chapters also imply criticism of the effectiveness of resource agencies in conserving declining species. Johnsgard provides several examples of states lacking data on their grouse populations and indicates that one state agency terminated population monitoring efforts when the hunting season on sharp-tailed grouse was closed.