Under the new plan, the sage grouse’s protected area would shrink by about 9m acres to span just 1.8m acres
Thu 6 Dec 2018 19.18 GMTLast modified on Thu 6 Dec 2018 19.24 GMT
The Trump administration has unveiled plans to weaken environmental protections for sprawling areas of the western US considered important habitat for the sage grouse, a chicken-like bird known for its flamboyant courtship displays.
The proposals, put forward by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), essentially dismantle much of a landmark 2015 compromise struck between states, oil drilling companies and environmentalists to create a network of protected areas for the sage grouse across 11 western states.
Under the new plan, the sage grouse’s protected area would shrink by around 9m acres to span just 1.8m acres. The plan also removes habitat conservation standards for grazing activities and makes it easier for federal officials to waive protective buffers around sage grouse mating areas, called leks.
An estimated 16 million sage grouse once roamed a vast area of sagebrush in the US west but years of development and the spread of agriculture has razed much of its habitat, causing a 90% population drop from historic levels. Sage grouse require large areas of intact sagebrush to feed and mate.
Today, sage grouse are found in 11 states, with the new Trump administration plan unwinding protection plans in seven of them – north-eastern California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming.