CASPER, Wyo.— The federal government paid $236 million to landowners in 11 states to preserve sage grouse habitat amid a debate over whether the bird should be listed as an endangered species, potentially hindering energy development and ranching.
The Casper Star-Tribune reported Wednesday that the money was paid for conservation efforts on nearly 6,000 square miles, mostly in the West, over a four-year period.
The US Department of Agriculture provided the numbers at the request of the Western Governors’ Association. That group argues the figures show that state and private efforts are more effective at preserving sage grouse than an endangered species designation would be.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to announce next year whether the sage grouse should be listed as endangered.