Sage grouse DNA study maps crucial mating grounds in US West

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A DNA study of sage grouse has revealed a vast network of mating grounds in the U.S. West akin to interconnected regional airport hubs that the imperiled species is using to maintain genetic diversity across its entire range.

The 19-page report by the U.S. Forest Service made public in early May involved nearly 6,000 sage grouse and maps about 1,200 mating sites in 10 western states and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

Scientists say identifying mating sites that are the most critical hubs can help land managers avoid decisions that could cut the genetic exchange sage grouse need to remain a viable species.

Officials in 2015 opted not to list the chicken-sized, ground-dwelling bird as needing federal protections, but they are scheduled to review that decision in 2020.

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