$4 Million In US Projects That Aim To Protect Sage Grouse Could Hurt Military

BOISE, Idaho (AP/CBS Local) — Federal officials have announced more than $4 million in projects in four states as part of a wildfire-fighting strategy to protect a wide swath of intermountain West sagebrush country that supports cattle ranching and is home to a the sage grouse, a struggling bird species.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Wednesday that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will use the money in Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Oregon to counter wildfire threats, invasive grasses and juniper trees encroaching in the sagebrush habitat.

The projects follow Jewell’s order in January calling for a strategy that safeguards the greater sage grouse bird while contending with fires that have been especially destructive in the Great Basin region.

However, the efforts to protect the greater sage grouse under the federal Endangered Species Act could hurt training operations at numerous U.S. military facilities in the West.

According to a report released this week by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy, and Environment, protecting the bird would restrict the availability of training lands; restrict the size of training lands and ranges; restrict the use of firing points and impose restrictions on future development and construction.

The report looked at the impact of protecting sage grouse on the Yakima Training Center in Washington; Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada; the Wyoming National Guard; Tooele Army Depot and Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.

Sage grouse are under consideration for federal protection, and another giant habitat-consuming fire could factor into the decision.

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