Judge rejects gov’t bid to delay sage grouse suit

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – A conservationist group says the imperiled sage grouse can’t wait until 2015 for a decision on whether to give the bird federal protections. A federal judge in Idaho Friday rejected the government’s attempt to delay a lawsuit from Western Watersheds Project, calling for more immediate measures to stop the bird’s decline. The Interior Department wants to prolong until 2015 its decision on whether the birds should receive Endangered Species Act protections. Western Watersheds’ Montana director Tom Woodbury says scientists agree the sage grouse is in danger of extinction and “things are only getting worse.” A lawyer for several farming groups attempting to intervene in the Idaho case says hitting industries with new restrictions to help the birds would be “the last thing we need with this economy.” A chicken-sized bird known for its elaborate mating display, the greater sage grouse is found in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nevada, Utah, Washington, Oregon, eastern California, Nevada, Utah, western Colorado.

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