Jun 17, 2014 6:48 AM by Chelsea DeCesare
DENVER (AP) - Federal authorities have issued a moratorium blocking oil, gas and coal leasing on 800,000 acres of public land in southwestern Colorado and eastern Utah that is habitat for the imperiled Gunnison sage grouse.
The moratorium described in a Bureau of Land Management memo prevents agency officials from offering and selling new leases, and requires that land-use plans be updated.
BLM spokesman Steven Hall says it's aimed at improving habitat and increasing populations of the chicken-sized birds. But energy industry officials say they'll fight the moratorium.
Western Energy Alliance vice president Kathleen Sgamma says land managers "are putting in place very restrictive measures that will impact jobs and economic development."
The bird is related to the greater sage grouse, which is the focus of a separate debate over federal protection.