Federal land managers have issued new guidelines that will help determine what restrictions are imposed on oil and gas drilling, livestock grazing and other activities in the West to protect the greater sage grouse.
The guidelines released Thursday are part of a broader effort to save the distinctive bird without resorting to the Endangered Species Act, which could bring down tougher restrictions.
Conservationists and industry groups are watching closely because the guidelines will influence how vigorously the government implements a sage grouse protection plan announced last year.
Among other things, the guidelines tell federal employees when and how to apply the new rules.
The guidelines cover about 95,000 square miles of federal land.
Greater sage grouse live in 11 Western states. About 200,000 to 500,000 remain, down from the species peak population of about 16 million.