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Greater sage grouse, an obscure bird known for its mating dance, could help seal Senate's fate

  • Senate Sage Grouse-1.jpg

    This April 2011 photo provided by Colorado Parks and Wildlife shows a male and female Gunnison sage grouse near Gunnison, Colo. The obscure, chicken-sized bird, best known for its mating dance, could help determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the U.S. Senate in November. The federal government is considering listing the greater sage grouse as an endangered species next year. Doing so could limit development, energy exploration, hunting and ranching on the 165 million acres of the bird’s habitat across 11 Western states. (AP Photo/Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Mike Danzenbaker) (The Associated Press)

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    FILE - This April 2014 photo provided by Colorado Parks and Wildlife shows a Gunnison sage grouse with tail feathers fanned near Gunnison, Colo. The obscure, chicken-sized bird, best known for its mating dance, could help determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the U.S. Senate in November. The federal government is considering listing the greater sage grouse as an endangered species next year. Doing so could limit development, energy exploration, hunting and ranching on the 165 million acres of the bird’s habitat across 11 Western states. (AP Photo/Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Dave Showalter) (The Associated Press)

A little-known bird the size of a chicken could help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate next year.

The federal government will decide whether to list the greater sage grouse as an endangered species in 2015.

Such a listing could freeze development, ranching and hunting on hundreds of millions of acres in Western states.

Two Republican congressmen running for U.S. Senate in Montana and Colorado are backing legislation to prevent the federal government from protecting the bird.

The lawmakers want states to take the lead. Their Democratic opponents and environmentalists say that's a bad idea — but that states will only take the necessary steps to preserve the bird's habitat if there's the risk of federal protection.