US

Gunnison sage grouse gets federal protection as threatened species in Colorado, Utah

FILE - This April 2014 photo provided by Colorado Parks and Wildlife shows a Gunnison sage grouse with tail feathers fanned near Gunnison, Colo. Federal officials are preparing to announce whether the Gunnison sage grouse will be protected under the Endangered Species Act, which could restrict oil and gas development and other land use in Colorado and Utah.  (AP Photo/Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Dave Showalter, File(

FILE - This April 2014 photo provided by Colorado Parks and Wildlife shows a Gunnison sage grouse with tail feathers fanned near Gunnison, Colo. Federal officials are preparing to announce whether the Gunnison sage grouse will be protected under the Endangered Species Act, which could restrict oil and gas development and other land use in Colorado and Utah. (AP Photo/Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Dave Showalter, File(  (The Associated Press)

Federal wildlife officials have granted protection to the Gunnison sage grouse, a move that could bring restrictions on oil and gas drilling and other land uses to preserve the bird's habitat in Colorado and Utah.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday the bird is a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

"We believe the best science available points to the conclusion that the bird, while not facing extinction ... is still likely to face extinction in the future," said Dan Ashe, the agency's director.

About 1.4 million acres will be designated as the species' critical habitat, Ashe said.

About 5,000 Gunnison sage grouse remain in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. They're related to the greater sage grouse, which is at the center of a separate and larger debate over federal protection across 11 Western states.