The Biden administration said on Friday it would consider new measures to protect the sage-grouse, a bird species once found across much of the western United States that has suffered drastic declines in recent years. decades due to oil and gas drilling, grazing, forest fires and other pressures.
The announcement of a range-wide habitat assessment for the sage-grouse came after the Trump administration tried to scale back conservation efforts adopted when Biden was vice president in 2015 .
A federal court blocked Trump’s changes. But officials in the Biden administration said the attempt had set back conservation efforts – even as the chicken-sized bird’s habitat was still ravaged by wildfires, the plant species. invasive and continuous development.
Industry groups resisted other restrictions, such as large buffer zones where drilling would be banned. Biologists have said these buffer zones are necessary to protect sage-grouse breeding areas where birds engage in elaborate annual mating rituals.
Some environmentalists have insisted that the 2015 plans did not go far enough because of loopholes that allowed grazing and drilling on land the Greater Sage-Grouse needed.
Bureau of Land Management deputy director Nada Culver said “everything is on the table” as the agency launches its Sage-Grouse habitat assessment, with no deadline set for action.
“Changes to the buffers, to the way we handle energy development, to the way we handle all other activities … we are evaluating it and seeking feedback on the most important points to consider,” said Culver.
The sage grouse once numbered in the millions in all or part of 11 western states. Scientists from the US Geological Survey said earlier this year that their numbers had fallen 65% since 1986.
In 2010, U.S. wildlife officials said drastic habitat losses meant protection for the sage grouse had become warranted under the Endangered Species Act. However, the US Fish and Wildlife Service took no action at the time, saying other species were given priority.
In 2015, the US Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the protections were no longer needed after other federal and state agencies adopted large-scale land use plans designed to stop or reverse the decline of the land. ‘species.
Eccentric birds with long, pointed tail feathers are known for their elaborate courtship displays in which male birds inflate air sacs in their necks to make a snap.
Federal officials said in May, in response to a court order, they would consider reactivating the ban on new mining on large swathes of public land to help the birds.
A temporary mining ban was imposed under former President Barack Obama, but abandoned by the Trump administration. Land affected totaled 10 million acres (4 million hectares) in Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.