The federal government has paid $236 million to landowners in 11 states to preserve sage grouse habitat amid a debate over whether the bird should be listed as an endangered species — potentially hindering energy development and ranching.
The Casper Star-Tribune reported Wednesday the money paid for conservation efforts on nearly 6,000 square miles, mostly in the West.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided the numbers to the Western Governors Association. That group argues the figures show that state and private efforts are more efficient at preserving sage grouse than an endangered species designation.
Some environmentalists say sage grouse numbers are falling sharply despite the public-private program.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to announce next year whether the sage grouse will be listed as endangered.