Wildlife officials hope to move as many as 60 greater sage grouse from Montana to North Dakota over the next two years to boost a waning population.
The proposal is part of a multistate effort to improve conditions for the birds and keep the federal government from listing them as endangered. Officials in Western states fear that federally mandated protections could severely restrict ranching, grazing and energy development.
Scientists say the sage grouse has lost half of its traditional range and also has been hit hard by the West Nile virus. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 2010 determined sage grouse deserved federal protection but that other species were of higher priority. The agency has pledged to make a final decision on listing the sage grouse by late 2015.
If the first transplant is successful, another 30 birds will move in 2015. The total cost of the project is estimated at $170,000, with Game and Fish covering half and USFWS the other half.
Reprinted in part from Billings Gazette