Conservation groups appeal whitebark pine ruling

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Updated: 5/20/2014 5:18 pm

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Conservationists are appealing a federal judge's ruling that rejected attempts to force the government to protect a high-elevation pine tree whose nuts are a food source for threatened grizzly bears.

The Wildwest Institute and Alliance for the Wild Rockies filed the appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The groups sued after the government said in 2011 that protections for the whitebark pine tree were warranted, but precluded by other priorities.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen said in an April 25 ruling that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designation leaves species such as the pine tree in limbo. But he said it's up to Congress to allocate money to pay for protections.

Whitebark pine are found in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, California, Oregon, Washington and western Canada.

©2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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