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Government releases fire plan to protect struggling bird


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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has released a plan to protect the habitat of a struggling bird species from being destroyed by wildfire.

The new firefighting strategy comes as Western states work to avoid the sage grouse's classification as a threatened or endangered species. Experts say the restrictions that come with protecting the wide-ranging birds could damage the economies of the 11 states where they are found.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to decide Endangered Species Act protections this fall.

The 82-page plan released Tuesday is mainly focused on how to prevent and respond to wildfires that could consume the birds' habitat. Widespread destruction could factor into the wildlife service's decision.

The plan centers on the rangeland and sagebrush landscapes in the Great Basin region of Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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KEITH RIDLER and MATT VOLZ

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