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Trump Proposes Easing Oil, Gas Leasing Restrictions In West

Oil pump.
Oil pump.

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Trump administration is proposing to ease restrictions on oil and gas leasing and other activities across a huge swath of the American West that were enacted to protect a declining bird species.

Interior Department officials on Wednesday released a draft of their proposed changes to conservation plans for the greater sage grouse in seven states.

The protections were approved in 2015 under former President Barack Obama.

But Trump has vowed to increase U.S. energy production and open more public lands to drilling.

Sage grouse are ground-dwelling, chicken-sized birds known for their elaborate mating ritual. Their numbers declined in recent decades due to energy development, disease and other causes.

Environmental groups earlier this week filed lawsuits alleging the administration already has sold energy leases in violation of the Obama-era plans.

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