Trump Plans Major Rollback of Sage Grouse Protections to Spur Oil Exploration

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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday published documents detailing its plan to roll back Obama-era protections for the vast habitat of the greater sage grouse, a chickenlike bird that roams across nearly 11 million acres in 10 oil-rich Western states.

The earlier proposal to protect the bird, whose waning numbers have brought it close to endangerment, was put forth under the Interior Department in 2015 and set out to ban or sharply reduce oil and gas drilling in 10.7 million acres of its habitat.

The Trump plan, by contrast, would limit the grouse’s protected habitat to just 1.8 million acres, essentially opening up nine million acres of land to drilling, mining and other development.

According to several environmental policy experts, the legal plan to roll back the sage grouse protections would open up more land to drilling via one policy change than other Trump administration moves to date. The plan, which is expected to be made final in 2019, is one in a series of actions, most performed by the Interior Department, designed to spur more oil and gas drilling across the nation’s public lands and waters.

A spokeswoman for the Interior Department, Heather Swift, did not respond to an email seeking comment on the plan.

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Coral Davenport covers energy and environmental policy, with a focus on climate change, from the Washington bureau. She joined The Times in 2013 and previously worked at Congressional Quarterly, Politico and National Journal. @CoralMDavenport Facebook

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