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The Trump administration moved forward Thursday with plans to ease restrictions on oil and gas drilling and other activities across millions of acres in the American West that were put in place to protect an imperiled bird species.
Land management documents released by the U.S. Interior Department show the administration intends to open more areas to leasing and allow waivers for drilling to encroach into the habitat of greater sage grouse.
Interior - Deputy - Secretary - David - Bernhardt
Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt said the agency was responding to requests by states to give them more flexibility in how public lands are managed. He said the goal to conserve declining grouse populations remained unchanged.
"I completely believe that these plans are leaning forward on the conservation of sage grouse," Bernhardt told The Associated Press. "Do they do it in exactly the same way, no? We made some change in the plans and got rid of some things that are simply not necessary."
Changes - Backlash - Conservation - Groups - Wildlife
The changes drew a sharp backlash from conservation groups and wildlife advocates, who warned they could push the birds onto the endangered species list.
"To have plans that took years of work, backed by good science and strong public support, brought into question is disheartening," said Brian Rutledge, with the National Audubon society.
Bird - Miles - Kilometers - Parts - US
The ground-dwelling bird ranges across about 270,000 square miles (700,000 square kilometers) in parts of 11 Western U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. Its numbers have plummeted in recent decades.
Federal officials under President...
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