US easing land restrictions across US West


    The changes still protect greater sage grouse. (Photo: MGN)<p>{/p}

    The Trump administration is finalizing plans to ease restrictions on oil and natural gas drilling and other industrial activities that were imposed to protect an imperiled bird species that ranges across the American West.

    U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director Brian Steed told The Associated Press the changes still protect greater sage grouse while addressing concerns that policies adopted by former President Barack Obama were too restrictive.

    A formal announcement is expected Friday.

    Critics say the changes will mean more disturbances to the bird's habitat, which includes portions of 11 states. Brian Rutledge with the Audubon Society says that will undermine efforts to shore up grouse populations.

    The ground-dwelling birds, known for an elaborate mating ritual, have seen steep declines due to energy development, disease and other factors.

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