By SCOTT SONNER
RENO, Nev. (AP) - A federal judge says U.S. wildlife officials acted illegally in 2015 when they denied Endangered Species Act protection for a distinct population of "bi-state" sage grouse in California and Nevada.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Spero ruled in San Francisco Tuesday the Fish and Wildlife Service ignored its own best scientific evidence when it reversed course on its 2013 proposal to declare the bird threatened.
The bi-state sage grouse found along the California-Nevada border is distinct from the greater sage grouse, which lives in a dozen western states.
The judge said the service wrongly concluded voluntary conservation measures in the works were legally adequate to stem the loss of bi-state grouse habitat resulting from urban sprawl, livestock grazing, wildfires and invasive plants.
He's ordered a new hearing to decide whether the agency must conduct another review of the bird's status.
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