The Latest: New lawsuit and a truce in sage grouse dispute

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Latest on sage grouse protections in Western U.S. states: (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

Environmental groups have started a new court battle over protections for an imperiled bird on Western U.S. public lands but called a truce in a separate lawsuit involving the bird’s smaller cousin.

A lawsuit filed Monday claims the Trump administration ignored policies meant to protect the greater sage grouse when the government sold oil and gas leases across 475 square miles (1,230 square kilometers) in Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada.

The suit asks the court to reverse those sales.

The greater sage grouse is a chicken-sized bird that ranges across 11 Western states.

Also Monday, environmentalists agreed to put on hold another lawsuit over protections for the Gunnison sage grouse, a smaller version of the bird which is found only in Colorado and Utah.

In return, the federal government agreed to come up with a recovery plan for the bird within 2½ years. The environmental groups say that guarantees the plan won’t be dragged out for years.


10:50 a.m.

Environmental groups are suing the Trump administration for selling oil and gas leases on huge swaths of Western U.S. public lands while allegedly ignoring policies meant to protect an imperiled bird.

The lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court seeks to reverse lease sales across 475 square miles (1,230 square kilometers) in Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada.

Western Watersheds Project and Center for Biological Diversity also want to block upcoming sales covering 1,800 square miles (4,662 square kilometers) in those four states plus Idaho.

Under former President Barack Obama, the Interior Department in 2015 adopted plans to protect greater sage grouse after the ground-dwelling bird lost much of its habitat due to energy development and other causes.

Trump’s Interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, has placed a greater priority on energy development.

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