BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says almost $1.3 million in grants are being awarded to two private-sector programs aimed at conserving greater sage grouse across the American West.

Thursday's announcement is part of a broad government effort to protect the chicken-sized bird's sagebrush habitat and keep it off the endangered species list. Vilsack told The Associated Press the programs will reduce risks to the private sector for investments in restoration. Grant recipient i2 Capital is setting up a conservation bank in Wyoming that credits ranchers and landowners for protecting habitat.

Oil and gas companies and others can purchase the credits to offset the impacts of development. The other program, from KCOE Isom, establishes a fund to guarantee landowners in seven states can recover their costs after restoring sage grouse habitat.

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