Friday, December 02, 2016

Conservation Groups Praise Wildlife Protection in Overhaul of Federal Land-Use Planning

U.S. government officials on Thursday finalized an overhaul of how they plan for oil and gas drilling, mining, grazing and other activities across public lands in the West. Members of Congress, industry groups and local officials have raised concerns about the overhaul's practical effects. They've said it will elevate wildlife and environmental preservation above other uses such as energy development and shift decision-making from agency field offices to Washington, D.C. The timing of the new rule in the Obama administration's last days drew a rebuke from U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, who predicted it would take authority away from local land managers. The Wyoming Republican pledged to work to reverse the action once President-elect Donald Trump takes office. "We need better coordination among state, local and federal land management agencies. Massive landscape-scale plans directed from Washington, D.C., are not the answer," said Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining. The changes were backed by conservation and sporting groups including Trout Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. Joel Webster, the partnership's Western lands director, said the rule would ensure decisions affecting wildlife such as mule deer weren't hobbled by artificial boundaries that separate bureau field offices. Opponents were "seeing ghosts" with concerns that public involvement would be hurt, he added...more

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