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Feds release plan to protect Western sagebrush country

Posted at 3:35 PM, Oct 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-31 17:35:57-04

Federal officials on Monday released an ambitious wildfire-fighting and restoration plan to protect a wide swath of sagebrush country in the intermountain West that supports cattle ranching and is home to the endangered sage grouse.

The 139-page plan is essentially a how-to guide that follows Interior Secretary Sally Jewell's five-page order in early 2015 calling for a "science-based" approach to safeguard greater sage grouse while contending with fires that have been especially destructive in the Great Basin.

The Interior Department plan also identifies gaps in knowledge, as scientists try to find the best approach to restore and protect about 500,000 square miles of sagebrush steppe.

Sage grouse numbers have plummeted in recent decades, and the federal government has been working to protect key habitat to avoid an Endangered Species Act listing.

(by Associated Press)