Oil-hungry Interior dismantles landmark sage grouse conservation plan

Credit: Jeannie Stafford/USFWS

The U.S. Department of the Interior just released its final plan to gut habitat protections for the sage grouse, an iconic (and imperiled) spiny feathered bird that once roamed across much of the American West. The Trump administration’s proposal eliminates the most protective measures on nearly nine million acres of sage grouse habitat, opening it up to oil and gas development. That’s bad news for the sage grouse, whose numbers have plummeted from nearly 16 million to an estimated 400,000 in recent decades. It's also bad news for the 350 other wildlife species that depend on healthy sagebrush—elk, mule deer, and golden eagles, to name a few. Finalized in 2015, the Obama-era plan was carefully negotiated by state and local officials, ranchers, and conservationists. The result was an unprecedented bipartisan compromise, dubbed the "largest wildlife conservation effort in the United States.” Alas, the new acting Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt, clearly only cares to hear from one voice: Big Oil.

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