Payback Time For The Cock Of The Prairie

Is the strutting sage grouse, iconic bird of the Western steppe, an endangered species? No doubt about it, say environmentalists, who petitioned for federal protection for the "cock of the prairie," as Lewis and Clark fondly dubbed it. Millions once darkened the skies across 16 states, but development has decimated its sagebrush range. Today an estimated 140,000 are left--some 8% of its historic numbers. And given the breakneck pace of Western economic growth, some biologists fear the grouse could disappear within 50 years.

But Bush Administration officials told a gathering of Western Governors last week that the bird is not threatened...

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