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Federal Judges Allow Environmental Groups In Sage Grouse Lawsuit

Federal judges have agreed to allow environmental lawyers in to legal battles being waged by rural and commercial interests in Nevada and Idaho intent on blocking new U.S. protections for the greater sage grouse.

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter didn't oppose granting intervener status to the three national conservation groups in the lawsuit he has filed in Washington, D.C., and the Obama administration hasn't objected in either case.

But nine Nevada counties, three mining companies and a livestock ranch opposed to the move that sets up a three-pronged approach to the arguments in an already complicated case expected to drag well into the summer in Reno.

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The Wilderness Society, National Wildlife Federation and mining watchdog group Earthworks won the status in both lawsuits filed last fall. A third lawsuit was filed last week by Utah's governor and legislature repeating claims that the land use planning amendments impose unnecessary restrictions on activities in or near grouse habitat.

Those activities range from livestock grazing to road building and energy exploration,