US Eases Protections for Threatened Bird in Western States

Bob Wick/Reuters/Courtesy of BLM
A sage grouse is shown in this undated US Bureau of Land Management photo.

The Trump administration on 15 March amended Obama-era land-use rules put in place to protect a threatened bird in 11 Western states and its shrinking sagebrush habitat, siding with oil and gas interests that opposed the measures as too restrictive.

Conservation groups denounced the move as a handout to the oil and gas industries, while an industry group praised it.

The new rules, announced by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, fits within the Trump administration’s broader plan to increase energy production on federal lands by loosening environmental regulations.

Former President Barack Obama’s 2015 plan to protect the ground-dwelling sage grouse imposed restrictions to development in their habitat but fell short of placing the bird on the endangered species list, which would have imposed far more rigid rules.

In 2017, the DOI ordered a review of protections for sage grouse to “ensure conservation efforts to not impede local economic opportunities.”

Of the 11 Western states included in the 2015 plans, seven opted for changes, according to BLM. They include California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. The governors of all of those states except California said in statements that they supported the plan amendments.

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