Western bird protection will get a new look under Biden’s leadership

Western bird protection will get a new look under Biden’s leadership

Billings, Mont. — The Biden administration said Friday it would consider new measures to protect the greater sage, a type of bird once found in much of the western United States that has suffered sharp declines in recent decades due to oil and gas exploration, grazing, wildfires and other pressures. .

The announcement of a large-scale habitat assessment in order to wisely larger protest came after the Trump administration tried to scale back the conservation efforts that were espoused when Biden was vice president in 2015.

A federal court has blocked Trump’s changes. But Biden administration officials said the attempt has hampered conservation efforts — even as the habitat of chickens the size of birds has been destroyed by wildfires, invasive plant species, and continued evolution.

Industry groups have resisted further restrictions, such as broad barriers where drilling is prohibited. Biologists said these barriers are necessary to protect grouse breeding grounds where the birds engage in elaborate annual mating rituals.

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Some environmentalists insisted that the 2015 plans were not successful enough due to loopholes that allowed grazing and digging on the land needed by wise grouse.

“Everything is on the table,” said Nada Culver, deputy director of the Bureau of Land Management, as the agency launches its assessment of the sage’s habitat, with no specific deadlines for action.

“From the changes to the buffers, to how we manage energy development, to how we manage every other activity…we are evaluating it and looking for input on the most important things to look at,” Culver said.

Sage grouse numbered in the millions greater across all or parts of the 11 western states. Scientists from the US Geological Survey said earlier this year that their numbers have fallen 65% since 1986.

In 2010, US wildlife officials said massive habitat loss meant the protection of sage grouse was now guaranteed under the Endangered Species Act. However, the US Fish and Wildlife Service took no action at the time, saying other species had priority.

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In 2015, the US Fish and Wildlife Service decided that protection was no longer required after other federal agencies and states adopted comprehensive land-use plans intended to halt or reverse the decline of the species.

Twisted birds with long, tapered tail feathers are known for their elaborate courtship display, where male birds blow air sacs into their necks to make a crackling sound.

Federal officials said in May, in response to a court order, that they would consider reviving a new mining ban on swathes of public land to help birds.

A temporary ban on mining was imposed under former President Barack Obama but was dropped by the Trump administration. Total affected land reached 10 million acres (4 million hectares) in Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

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