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Oregon Panel Adopts Sage Grouse Rules

<p>A male great western sage grouse. The bird's numbers have plummeted across the West. </p>

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A male great western sage grouse. The bird's numbers have plummeted across the West.

New rules adopted Monday by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission move the state a step closer to putting together a plan to protect greater sage grouse.

Historically, sage grouse spanned 11 western states. Good habitat throughout those states has become greatly fragmented by things like invasive weeds, wildfire, encroaching juniper trees and development.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission's new rules — like those adopted last week by the state's Land Conservation and Development Commission — are meant to prevent projects like wind farms and mines from being developed in the most important stretches of sage grouse habitat.

The rules apply to about one-third of sage grouse habitat in Oregon. It supports 90 percent of the state’s sage grouse.

State officials hope these rules will provide assurances to the federal government that there are enough sage grouse protections in place to avoid an endangered species listing this September.

The turkey-sized bird is uniting ranchers and conservationists in an effort to keep it off the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's list of species that merit federal protection because of their status as threatened or endangered.

Oregon ranchers say adding the greater sage grouse to the endangered species list could impose restrictions on their industry that are as economically disruptive as logging restrictions were for Northwest timber towns following the listing of the northern spotted owl in 1990.

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