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BLM IDs wilderness characteristics, grouse habitat

By Associated Press
Published On: Nov 15 2012 07:53:52 AM MST
sagegrouse
GREAT FALLS, Mont. -

A federal land inventory has identified 386,000 acres on the Hi-Line as having wilderness characteristics and 1.6 million acres of sage grouse habitat.
    
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management analysis of 2.4 million acres in Hill, Blaine, Phillips, Valley and part of Liberty County is the first such inventory of the area since the early 1980s.
    
The Great Falls Tribune reports (http://gftrib.com/W9iv0j0 the BLM is not recommending any wilderness study areas or protected wilderness designations.
    
BLM planning and environmental coordinator Brian Hockett says management of the newly inventoried land will be up for debate when a draft management plan is released in January.
    
The plan also will address sage grouse, as BLM officials hope to preserve the birds' habitat now to prevent their being protected under the Endangered Species Act.