Zinke orders reviewing of grouse rule
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke late Wednesday ordered his department to begin a comprehensive review of federal policies protecting the greater sage grouse — and reignited a battle with western conservationists and environmental groups in the process.
The 60-day study will revisit the Obama administration’s policy, enacted in September 2015, that stopped short of listing the bird on the endangered species list, a drastic step would have shut down the sage grouse’s Western habitat to ranching and energy exploration.
The current policy allows such activities in the bird’s habitat but establishes protections to ensure the sage grouse, which has dropped in population from the millions to between 200,000 and 500,000, does not become extinct.
The habitat includes tens of millions of acres of federal land and stretches across 11 states.
But Mr. Zinke suggested in his announcement that current federal rules are too restrictive, and that there could be less heavy-handed ways to ensure the sage grouse is protected.
“Destroying local communities and levying onerous regulations on the public lands that they rely on is no way to be a good neighbor,” Mr. Zinke said in a statement.
Environmentalists quickly pushed back at the review process and said the administration is merely laying the groundwork for unchecked energy development across sage grouse habitat.
“The Trump administration’s clear intention to drill, mine and frack our public lands no matter the cost is once again on full display,” said Lena Moffitt, senior director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wilderness Campaign.