DENVER – 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.