Thursday, June 08, 2017

Interior chief to review sage-grouse conservation plan

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Wednesday he is ordering a review of federal efforts to conserve the imperiled sage grouse to ensure that officials in 11 Western states where the bird lives are fully consulted. While the federal government has a responsibility under the Endangered Species Act to protect the ground-dwelling bird, "we also have a responsibility to be a good neighbor and a good partner," Zinke said. Zinke made the comments Wednesday as he announced a 60-day review of a sweeping 2015 conservation plan put in place by the Obama administration. The plan set land-use policies across the popular game bird's 11-state range that were intended to keep it off the endangered species list. The plan was backed by more than $750 million in commitments from the government and outside groups to conserve land and restore the bird's range, which extends from California to the Dakotas. Even so, the plan drew criticism from opposite ends of the political spectrum. Environmental groups complained it was riddled with loopholes and would not do enough to protect the bird from extinction, while mining companies, ranchers and officials in Utah, Idaho and Nevada argued that the Obama administration's actions would impede oil and gas drilling and other economic development. The ground-dwelling sage grouse, known for its elaborate mating ritual, range across a 257,000-square-mile region spanning 11 states...more

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