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Sage grouse protection provision left out of defense bill

BILLINGS, Mont. — Congress has failed to advance a measure that would have blocked new land-use plans meant to protect a wide-ranging Western bird, the greater sage grouse.

The sage grouse provision backed by Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah had been approved in May by the House as part of a $612 billion defense policy bill.

Bishop's office said Wednesday the measure was left out of a House-Senate compromise on the defense bill.

The Interior Department said last week that sage grouse don't need Endangered Species Act protections. But the agency adopted plans that limit oil and gas drilling, mining and other activities within the sage grouse's 11-state range.

Officials in Idaho and Nevada and some mining companies have sued Interior Secretary Sally Jewell over the changes.

Rancher Duane Coombs shows his pin depicting a sage grouse at a gathering at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colo., Sept. 22. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS.