Fisheries Conservation photo

A painful truth every writer eventually admits to is that some pictures really are worth a thousand words—or more.

A case in point is “The Sagebrush Sea”—the next edition of the PBS show “Nature,” airing 8 p.m. Wednesday May 20 (check your local listings to be sure).

Regular readers of this blog know about the crisis facing fish, wildlife and sportsmen on the great sagebrush plains of the west. The almost unchecked expansion of oil and gas drilling from Montana across Wyoming and into Oregon, Nevada, and Utah fragmented an already diminishing wildlife habitat base.

While the home ranges of more than 300 species are being impacted, the sage grouse has become the iconic figure of this crisis for good reason: Its numbers have dropped so low the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering it for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Just last week, Colorado governor John Hickenlooper issued an executive order outlining protective measures for the sage grouse in an attempt to forestall listing on the ESA.

But this fight isn’t just about one critter—or even the other 300. It’s about a unique ecosystem that in some places is being permanently altered, even destroyed.

These facts have been reported. But most Americans have never seen—nor ever will—the sagebrush plains, a habitat unlike anything found in the rest of the country. So trying to describe the beauty being debased is an almost impossible task.

This is where “The Sagebrush Sea” triumphs.

Most sportsmen, like most Americans, live well outside the sagebrush plains and have probably been wondering what all the fuss is about.

Here’s a chance to find out.