New lawsuits and a truce in sage grouse dispute

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Environmental groups have launched a pair of court battles over protections for an imperiled bird on public land in the Western U.S. but called a truce in a third lawsuit involving its smaller cousin.

Lawsuits filed Monday in Idaho and Montana claim the Trump administration ignored policies meant to protect the greater sage grouse when it sold oil and gas leases in Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. They ask the court to reverse those sales.

The greater sage grouse is a chicken-sized bird that ranges across 11 Western states.

Also Monday, environmentalists agreed to put on hold another lawsuit over protections for the Gunnison sage grouse, a smaller version of the bird found only in Colorado and Utah.

The federal government agreed to come up with a recovery plan for Gunnison grouse within 2½ years.