Reno, NV – A new study by an environmental group that wants the sage grouse listed as a threatened or endangered species shows less than 5 percent of what's left of its dwindling habitat across the West is federally protected.
WildEarth Guardians' new assessment found four-fifths of the game bird's habitat is adversely affected by either livestock grazing, natural gas and oil development or invasive weeds.
Opponents of a federal listing say the study places too much emphasis on grazing and drilling while ignoring other threats to the species such as drought, West Nile virus and wildfires.
The sage grouse is found in Nevada and 10 other Western states. Its population has been declining for decades and it now occupies about half of its original, year-round habitat.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected a petition in 2005 to add the bird to the list of threatened or endangered species. But a judge in Idaho overturned the decision last December.
Wildlife officials have been assessing the status of the bird the past six months and the fish and wildlife service is scheduled to issue a new listing decision in December.