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Trump opens sage grouse habitat to oil and gas drilling



The Department of the Interior has been working on modifying the protections for grouse from June 2017, when the former Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order asking federal and state governments to strengthen "communication and collaboration .. with the shared goal of preserving "even by not preventing" local economic opportunities ", according to the Bureau of Land Management.

The effort was directed to the changing guidelines on the use of the land throughout the West that had been put in place under the Obama administration in 2015 to protect the bird habitat .

Under Zinke, Interior asked 11 states if they thought the changes should be made to the 2015 plans, and seven said they thought there would be changes, according to BLM. The department's task force recommended that the sage flowers should not be protected by the Endangered Species Act and suggested changing the land use guidelines in states that indicated that there should be changes to the plans .

States affected by Interior's new salty succulent plan are Oregon, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada and northeastern parts of California.

The President of the Chamber for Natural Resources President Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, called the changes "a smash job on our environment", in a statement.

"As part of its ongoing campaign to deliver public lands to fossil fuel companies, this administration is reducing the safeguards for grouse that many stakeholders have created together through a long and deliberate process," said Grijalva. "It seems clear that Acting Secretary David Bernhardt's customers are earning more than anyone else from this review."

Officials from the Department of the Interior replied stating that the new policy demonstrates how the state and federal government can work together to protect wild birds and not hinder economic development.

"Since the beginning of this effort, all the partners have maintained the Sage grouse must be preserved and the need to list the species as threatened or endangered must be avoided," said Brian Steed, deputy director and responsible for BLM policy and programs, in a statement. "We also share a commitment to conservation that does not put the Western communities at risk and which balances regulation and access."

Bernhardt is a former fossil fuel lobbyist. A CNN investigation found that Bernhardt's former customer, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, has repeatedly met and e-mailed internal officials regarding the bird.
In July and August 201
7, the IPAA lobbyist Samantha McDonald sent a message to a member of the interior of the agency who issued new guidelines on bleed maps and agent replied that Interior was "working on it", according to e-mails obtained from Western values ​​Project.

Public calendars show that Bernhardt participated in at least three essay staff meetings, at least one of which included staff members who communicated with the IPAA on the issue or met group representatives.

In a letter of March 2018, IPAA and other groups expressly thanked Bernhardt for the Interior rollback regulations and stated that they did not see the time to work with the agency for the review of usage policies of the territory.

A spokesman for Bernhardt said in a statement that he had fully complied with his rejection of agreements and some supporters in the energy sector argue that these regulatory rollbacks are part of what Trump was elected to do.

Western Values ​​Proje Deputy Director Jayson O & # 39; Neill said the Trump administration "broke their agreement with the West" by adopting these changes.

"The changes were rigged right from the start for the same special interests and oil and gas groups that Bernhardt represented as a lobbyist, while ignoring the concerns of former Western governors and the more than half a million voices that asked them to honor the original agreement, "said O & Neill in a note.

Scott Bronstein of CNN, Curt Devine, Drew Griffin and Audrey Ash contributed to this report.


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