New strategy aims to save sagebrush in Western states

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) – Federal officials have released a plan to save sagebrush habitats in Western states that support cattle ranching, recreation and 350 wildlife species, including imperiled sage grouse.

Officials say the 248-page document released this month is a paradigm shift relying on advances in technology and analytics to categorize sagebrush areas based on resistance and resiliency to wildfire.

Parts of the plan describe a triage system as officials with limited resources try to restore and protect sagebrush country that for decades has been losing ground to a devastating combination of invasive plants and wildfires.

A federal report last year concluded efforts to save sagebrush habitat were failing, with invasive plants such as cheatgrass and medusahead on nearly 160,000 square miles (414,400 sq. kilometers) of public and private lands.