BILLINGS — A government study with significant implications for the U.S. energy industry says the breeding grounds of a struggling bird species need a 3-mile or larger buffer from oil and gas drilling, wind farms and solar projects.
Monday’s finding from the U.S. Geological Survey comes as the Obama administration weighs greater protections for greater sage grouse.
The ground-dwelling bird ranges across 11 Western states. Its population dropped sharply in recent decades due to disease, pressure from the energy industry, wildfires and other factors.
State and federal officials are scrambling to come up with conservation measures to protect the bird ahead of a court-ordered September 2015 decision on protections.
A related bird, the Gunnison sage grouse of Utah and Colorado, received federal protection as a threatened species on Nov. 12.
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