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Interior Secretary Zinke Orders A Review Of Sage Grouse Plan

Greater sage-grouse.
Greater sage grouse. The Department of Interior announced it's decision today not to recommend endangered species protections for the bird.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said today he is ordering a review of federal efforts to conserve the imperiled sage grouse. Zinke says he wants to ensure that officials in 11 Western states where the bird lives are fully consulted.Zinke announced a 60-day review of a sweeping 2015 conservation plan put in place by the Obama administration. The plan set land-use policies across the popular game bird's range that were intended to keep it off the endangered species list.

The plan was backed by more than $750 million in commitments from the government and outside groups to conserve land and restore the bird's range, which extends from California to the Dakotas.

Even so, the plan drew criticism from opposite ends of the political spectrum. Environmental groups complained it was riddled with loopholes and would not do enough to protect the bird from extinction. Mining companies, ranchers and officials in Utah, Idaho and Nevada argued that the Obama administration's actions would impede oil and gas drilling and other economic development.

Zinke said he has received complaints from several Western governors that the Obama administration ignored or minimized their concerns as the plan was developed. Zinke said several republican governors would prefer that the plan give them more flexibility and rely less on habitat preservation and more on the number of birds in a particular state.

Democratic Goveror John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Republican Gov. Matt Mead of Wyoming told Zinke they opposed changing from a habitat-management model to one that sets population objectives for the states. Hickenlooper and Mead co-chair a federal-state sage grouse task force that worked to develop the 2015 plan.

Zinke's order calls for officials to evaluate both the federal sage grouse plan and state plans and programs to ensure they are complementary. A report is due in early August.

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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