By DAN ELLIOTT, ASSOCIATED PRESS
DENVER — Aug 12, 2016, 4:55 PM ET
Federal land managers announced long-awaited plans to protect the rare Gunnison sage grouse, a bird found only in Colorado and Utah.
The Bureau of Land Management released a nearly 1,000-page document late Thursday proposing restrictions on energy development, roads and grazing.
The proposals include closing or limiting the use of some areas during the birds' mating season, from mid-March to Mid-May, and during harsh winter weather. That could affect exploration for oil and gas, among other activities.
Other proposals include limits on the size of rights of way for utility lines and pipelines. Release of the plans opens a 90-day period for public comment. Final rules are expected next year.
Only about 5,000 Gunnison sage grouse remain in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. The bird was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 2014. About 2,200 square miles in the two states are considered critical habitat.
Threatened status is less serious than endangered, which means a species is on the verge of extinction now and requires tighter restrictions.
The Gunnison grouse is related to the greater sage grouse, which is found across 11 Western states. Federal wildlife managers decided in September not to protect the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, but conservation restrictions are planned on public lands.