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Obama administration lays out controversial plans to protect sage grouse

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Obama administration lays out controversial plans to protect sage grouse

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service faces a court-ordered deadline of Sept. 30 to decide whether the greater sage grouse needs protection as a threatened or endangered species.

The Obama administration disclosed plans Thursday to preserve the habitat of the imperiled greater sage grouse in 10 Western states that would include placing limits on oil and natural gas drilling.

The proposal would be the federal government’s biggest land-planning effort to date for conservation of a single species. The regulations would require oil and gas wells to be clustered in groups of a half-dozen or more to avoid scattering them across habitat of the greater sage grouse.

Drilling near breeding areas would be prohibited during mating season, and power lines would be moved away from prime habitat to avoid serving as perches for raptors that eat sage grouse.

The new measures would apply to federal lands in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management expects to adopt the new measures by late summer.

The Interior Department said the move would make it less likely that the bird would end up listed as endangered.

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