The Latest: Nevada Democratic Sen. critical of grouse plan

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Latest on the Trump administration’s efforts to ease drilling restrictions that were put in place to protect a declining bird species (all times local):

6:15 p.m.

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada is sharply criticizing the Trump administration’s new move to ease land-use restrictions that were in place to protect the greater sage grouse across the West.

The Interior Department released documents Thursday that outline plans to open more public lands to oil and gas leasing and allow waivers for drilling to encroach into the habitat of the imperiled bird.

Cortez Masto says the administration has decided to put the interests of the oil and gas industry ahead of the best interests of Nevadans.

The Democrat says the new plan undermines the delicate balance Western states had struck to ensure protection of the grouse and keep it off the U.S. list of threatened species while strengthening economic development across the West.

Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval says he’s glad the administration incorporated some of the state’s input.

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3:00 p.m.

Federal officials have dropped plans to conduct a five-year status review of a jeopardized bird species as the Trump administration seeks to weaken its habitat protections.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in 2015 that the greater sage grouse was not a threatened or endangered species but pledged to revisit the issue in five years.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Strickland told The Associated Press the agency is not legally required to complete a review, which can be a first step toward determining if greater protections are needed.

Strickland says the agency instead will work with state wildlife officials to document the effectiveness of conservation plans for the bird.

The Trump administration on Thursday advanced a proposal to overhaul those conservation plans and lift restrictions on oil and gas drilling in grouse habitat.

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7:15 a.m.

The Trump administration is advancing plans to ease restrictions on oil and gas drilling and other activities on huge swaths of land in the American West that were put in place to protect an imperiled bird species.

Land management plans released Thursday would allow more waivers for drilling to encroach into the bird’s habitat.

That would reverse protections for greater sage grouse enacted in 2015, under President Barack Obama. Critics warn it could doom the birds.

Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have vowed to open more public lands to drilling. Grouse protections have long been viewed by companies as an obstacle to development.

The ground-dwelling birds are known for an elaborate mating ritual and range across portions of 11 states. Habitat loss and disease have decimated some populations.

Associated Press

Associated Press

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