Biden considers reversing Trump’s rules on Western grouse

Biden considers reversing Trump’s rules on Western grouse

Billings, Mont. — The Biden administration said Friday it would consider new measures to protect the greater sage, a type of bird once found in much of the western United States that has suffered sharp declines in recent decades due to oil and gas exploration, grazing, wildfires and other pressures. .

The announcement of a large-scale assessment of habitat plans for a larger wise protest came after the Trump administration tried to scale back the conservation efforts that were adopted when Biden was vice president in 2015.

A federal court has blocked Trump’s changes. But Biden administration officials said the attempt has hampered conservation efforts — even as the chicken’s size bird habitat is further devastated by wildfires, invasive plants, and continued evolution.

States and Republican-run industries that make use of public lands have clashed with wildlife advocates over how much space birds need to survive.


Some environmentalists insisted that the 2015 plans were not successful enough due to loopholes that allowed grazing and digging on the land needed by wise grouse.

Biologists say extensive stores of digging and other activities are needed to protect grouse breeding grounds where the birds engage in complex annual mating rituals.

“Everything is on the table,” said Nada Culver, deputy director of the Bureau of Land Management, as the agency launches its assessment of the sage’s habitat, with no specific deadlines for action.

“From the changes to the buffers, to how we manage energy development, to how we manage every other activity…we are evaluating it and looking for input on the most important things to look at,” Culver said.

Officials will also look at how climate change is adding to pressures on wise grouse. Culver pointed to data showing that wildfires have burned nearly 10,700 square miles (28,000 square kilometers) of bird habitat since 2016. The vast majority of fires have been on federal lands.


Sage grouse numbered in the millions greater across all or parts of the 11 western states. Government scientists recently concluded that the population has declined by 65% ​​since 1986.

In 2010, wildlife officials said massive habitat loss meant the protection of sage grouse was now guaranteed under the Endangered Species Act. However, the US Fish and Wildlife Service took no action at the time, saying other species had priority.

In 2015, the Wildlife Service determined that protection was no longer required after federal and other officials adopted comprehensive land management plans designed to halt or reverse the decline of the species.

The plans have been described as a compromise, but some components fell apart after Trump took office in 2017 and states sought changes to documents that critics said would harm the protest.


Twisted birds with long, tapered tail feathers are known for their elaborate courtship display, in which males puff air sacs into their chests to make a strange sound.

Kathleen Sgamma of the Western Energy Alliance said the group representing oil and gas companies said the administration’s move on Friday was expected.

“Tayhoj al-Hakim has been political football for decades,” she said, adding that Democratic administrations have used the bird to block access to what her association considers productive uses of public lands.

Federal officials said in May, in response to a court order, that they would consider a ban on new mining on large tracts of public land to help birds.

The Trump administration has dropped a ban that officials had sought under former President Barack Obama. Total affected land reached 10 million acres (4 million hectares) in Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.


The Land Office resumed this process. Spokeswoman Alice Sharp said she would consider the original proposal and additional options.

The order came with a fresh look at mining in a lawsuit from environmentalists pending before US District Judge B. Lynn Winmel in Idaho. The judge criticized the Trump administration for ignoring prior science on the issue.

Eric Mulvar of the Western Watersheds Project, the lead plaintiff in the case, said rolling back the Obama administration’s plans wouldn’t be enough to protect Grouse. The plans, he said, made it too easy for oil companies and ranchers to disturb the wise brush’s habitat for birds.

The Obama administration has done its best to please all sides of the political spectrum. “But in the end they didn’t please anyone and didn’t give wise grouse the habitat they needed to recover,” said Mulvar. “It would be ridiculous to make the same mistake.”



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