BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. officials say they will decide next year whether a wide-ranging Western bird species needs protections even though Congress has blocked such protections from going into effect.  That means wildlife officials could determine the greater sage grouse is heading toward possible extinction, but they would be unable to intervene under the Endangered Species Act. President Barack Obama signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill late Tuesday that bars money from being spent on rules to protect the chicken-sized grouse and several related birds. Interior Department officials say they'll continue analyzing whether protections are needed and reach a decision by Sept. 30.  Sage grouse range across 11 Western states and two Canadian provinces.

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Oil and gas drilling, wildfires, livestock grazing and other activities have consumed more than half the bird's habitat.