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BOISE, ID – Officials say they’re losing the battle against a devastating combination of invasive plant species and wildfires in the vast sagebrush habitats in the U.S. West that support cattle ranching and recreation — and are home to an imperiled bird.

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, in a 58-page report released this month, says invasive plants on nearly 160,000 square miles of public and private lands have reached “enormous levels” and are spreading.

Officials say that could mean more giant rangeland wildfires that, in recent decades, destroyed vast areas of sagebrush country that support some 350 species of wildlife, including imperiled sage grouse.

The report says the top problem is the limited ability at all levels of government to prevent invasive plants such as fire-prone cheatgrass from spreading.

(by Keith Ridler, Associated Press)

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