By MEAD GRUVER
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Interior Secretary Sally Jewell revealed plans Thursday to preserve habitat in 10 Western states for an imperiled ground-dwelling bird, the federal government's biggest land-planning effort to date for conservation of a single species.
The proposal would affect energy development. The regulations would require oil and gas wells to be clustered in groups of a half-dozen or more to avoid scattering them across habitat of the greater sage grouse. Drilling near breeding areas would be prohibited during mating season, and power lines would be moved away from prime habitat to avoid serving as perches for raptors that eat sage grouse.
Some will say the plans don't go far enough to protect the bird, Jewell said.
"But I would say these plans are grounded in sound science - the best available science," she said at a news conference on a ranch near Cheyenne.
Sage grouse are chicken-sized birds that inhabit grass and sagebrush ecosystems in 11 states from California to the Dakotas. The rules would not apply to a relatively small area of habitat in Washington state. The bird's numbers have declined sharply in recent decades, and some environmentalists warn they are at risk of extinction.