Feds remove protections for 10M acres of sage grouse habitat

Rick McEwan, Courtesy of Sage Grouse Initiative

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Interior Department says it is withdrawing protections for 10 million acres of federal lands used by the threatened sage grouse to open it up for energy development.

The plan would allow mining and other development in areas where it now is prohibited in six Western states: Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

The Bureau of Land Management, an Interior agency, said a recent analysis showed that mining would not pose a significant threat to sage grouse habitat. The proposal would affect less than one-tenth of 1 percent of sage-grouse-occupied range across 11 states from California to the Dakotas.

The change comes as the Trump administration moves to reconsider an Obama-era plan to protect the ground-dwelling sage grouse, which has suffered dramatic population decline in recent decades.