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Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, whose state has moved aggressively to protect sage-grouse habitat, said he wasn’t surprised by the decision.

“Naturally, I would have preferred a ‘not-warranted’ finding,” said Mr. Freudenthal. “I am encouraged by the fact that the Department of the Interior is willing to work with us so that part of the burden of maintaining the species is borne on federal land and does not simply burden private and state land.”

Mr. Freudenthal also credited the state’s sage-grouse implementation team with helping ward off a threatened or endangered listing.

“Absent the policy shift developed by the team, I have no doubt that the bird would have been listed,” said Mr. Freudenthal. “The candidate listing gives us a fighting chance, while an endangered or threatened listing would have taken the wind out of our sails. Now is the time for us to roll up our sleeves and hone our strategies to make sure Wyoming’s birds are never listed, no matter what happens elsewhere in the West.”