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Idaho task force suggests ways to protect grouse

Associated Press Published: June 23, 2012

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A 16-member task force appointed by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to figure out a way to dissuade the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing sage grouse as an endangered species has submitted its recommendations to the governor.

The Sage Grouse Task Force on Friday recommended limiting transmission lines, wind and solar energy plants and creating new measures for ranchers. The task force also recommends splitting Idaho's sage grouse habitat into three zones.

"The task force members have done a great job putting together options for protecting sage grouse without the draconian restrictions that would be required by an endangered species listing," Otter said.

If Otter approves the document, it will be sent for consideration as part of the National Greater Sage Grouse Land Use Planning Strategy being developed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined sage grouse deserved federal protection, but other species were higher priorities. A recent legal settlement now gives the agency until 2015 to decide the bird's status — threatened or endangered or not in need of federal protection.

The 38-page report recommends designating core, important and general habitat for sage grouse in Idaho, each having different management strategies with different levels of restrictions concerning development and grazing.

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