BILLINGS, Mont. — Dec 6, 2018, 9:32 AM ET

US officials move to ease Obama-era drilling restrictions


The Trump administration moved forward Thursday with plans to ease restrictions on oil and gas drilling and other activities across millions of acres in the American West that were put in place to protect an imperiled bird species.

Land management documents released by the Interior Department show the administration intends to open more areas to leasing and allow waivers for drilling to encroach into the habitat of greater sage grouse.

The ground-dwelling bird ranges across about 270,000 square miles (700,000 square kilometers) in parts of 11 Western U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. Its numbers have plummeted in recent decades.

Federal officials under President Barack Obama in 2015 adopted a sweeping set of land use restrictions intended to benefit grouse.

But President Donald Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have vowed to open public lands to drilling, and grouse protections have long been viewed by the energy industry as an obstacle to development.

Sage grouse are large, ground-dwelling birds known for an elaborate mating ritual in which males strut around breeding grounds with large, puffed-out air sacs protruding from their chests.

They once numbered in the millions. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now estimates the population at 200,000 to 500,000. Energy development, disease and other causes have decimated populations in some areas.

The Trump administration's proposal would reverse or modify the Obama-era protections in seven states — Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, California, Idaho and Oregon.

A draft version of the Interior Department proposal released in May drew a sharp backlash from conservation groups and wildlife advocates. They said the changes would disrupt sage grouse breeding areas and could push the birds onto the endangered species list.

Governors from several western states also raised concerns, over a related federal directive that would limit a type of land swap that can be used to preserve habitat for the birds.

Following Thursday's release of environmental studies analyzing the changes in each state, governors and the public get another chance to weigh in before a final decision is expected in early 2019.


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  • foldincaulfield

    "What? Me worry? What climate change?" - Alfred E. Newman

  • moving33

    Need to start drilling all that oil off the California coast. Trump can get a date with Nancy and we can watch the fireworks.

  • Renate

    People still don't get the difference between climate and weather.

  • John Rettinger

    Petroleum Corporations will lose value in issued debentures for corporate bonds, particularly in regards to the cash yields and dividends. Companies rely on fast and strong revenues to pay Investors. The Administration recommends a capital outlay that requires billions of dollars invested into the development of oil fields. Energy Companies in turn must request corporate loans, offer shares, and issue corporate bonds to pay for this expansion. Trump's suggestion induces economic instability, financial insolvency, and implied fiscal debacle.

  • Nala

    we are currently "CLEAN" because of the enviromental restrictions that were implemented since the 70's - rolling them back will allow our air to look like it did in the past PLEASE LOOK UP THESE PHOTOS YOURSELF ! ! ! !

  • fmd160

    U.S. officials should actually read "Trump".

  • AG99

    What a shame that we value short-term profits over the existence of this bird.

  • John_Cabal

    Greenland melting at an unprecedented rate - marine life choking on plastic - CO2 hitting 400 ppm for the first time in 4 million years - Flooding in Louisiana (2016), Texas (2017), Carolinas (2018),....

    - If only someone could connect the dots

  • James Coletrane

    "Nobody loves grouse more than Donald Trump" - DJT

  • Starderup

    Just yesterday, the Orange Moron proclaimed we have cleaner air and water than ever. No. Not at all. The Moron is destroying the environment.He is truly evil.

  • oldopiner

    Better go visit Old Faithful while it's still belching hot water and not fracking mud.

  • hold-the-phone

    "Obama signed this? Oh, that's _gotta_ go..." /s

  • Zed52

    These birds are living rent free on state and federal lands.
    My question is, are they a native species or did they fly over from another country to nest and take up permanent residency here?
    We can't keep giving handouts to these freeloading species.

  • Gary Stanley

    Pave paradise and put up a parking lot.
    And then charge the people $20 just to park 'em.
    Don't it always seem to go
    That repubs care only about their bottom line.

  • ML

    Profits before environment! Trump has investments in oil. I strongly feel he does things in his wallets best interest and to hell with everything else. When are we going to hold this guy accountable? He is taking us backwards daily! This is CRAZY! Come on dems! DO something! And reporters - where are all the headlines? It seems when Trump is involved the story is told in a bi-partisan way and not asking any hard questions! Yet he still manages to yell fake news - and you still don't do anything! smh This guy is an American disaster! 2020 can't come soon enough! #ANYONEBUTTRUMP smh

  • Lawrence Wilson

    Eyeah, nice try Donny boy, but I don't think it's going to happen the way you think it will.