Energy leases delayed over sage grouse


BILLINGS, Mont. | Concerns over a bird that ranges across the American West continue to delay federal oil and gas lease sales five months after officials said they’d found a way to balance drilling and conservation.

The Interior Department said it will defer the sale of almost 60,000 acres of leases primarily in eastern Montana as it works on new policies for greater sage grouse.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced in September federal protections were not needed for the chicken-sized bird. That followed a sweeping overhaul of public land management plans to limit drilling near grouse breeding areas.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Al Nash says the agency still is crafting policies to put those plans into effect. More than 8 million acres of leases in seven states were previously deferred.