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Protecting sage grouse could hurt military, report says

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Protecting sage grouse could hurt military, report says

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a Sept. 30 deadline to decide whether to propose the greater sage grouse for federal protection.

Efforts to protect the greater sage grouse under the federal Endangered Species Act could hurt training operations at numerous U.S. military facilities in the West, according to a new report by the Army.

The report looked at the impact of protecting sage grouse on the Yakima Training Center in Washington; Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada; the Wyoming National Guard; Tooele Army Depot and Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.

It found that protecting the birds would restrict the availability of training lands; limit the size of training lands and ranges; restrict the use of firing points; and impose restrictions on future development and construction.

The greatest impacts would occur at the Yakima Training Center, a 327,000-acre facility in central Washington that provides desert-like training conditions for the U.S. Army that includes live fire of ammunition and maneuver training.

The Yakima center supports one of four populations of greater sage grouse in the state, within a 77,000-acre preserve, and already operates in a way to minimize impacts on the birds, according to the report released this week by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy, and Environment.

But a listing under the Endangered Species Act would impact “the ability to meet the training mission,” the report said.

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