Feds clear drilling in sensitive bird’s habitat

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has approved an oil and gas drilling project in northeastern Nevada in an area that serves as a habitat for a bird that may be threatened.

Noble Energy Inc. is planning to conduct exploration drilling in Elko County, Nev., with up to 20 wells on public and private land, The Associated Press reported Monday. Some of the land has been identified by state officials as the habitat of the greater sage grouse.

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“Although this project does occur within both priority and general sage grouse habitat, the analysis has determined there will not be a significant impact to sage grouse as a result,” BLM spokesman Christopher Rose told the AP. “Multiple environmental protection measures and project design features are included to reduce the impacts of this project.”

Nevada wildlife officials think the measures already in place and included in the drilling plans are sufficient to protect the sage grouse, the AP reported.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to place the sage grouse on its list of “threatened” species, a protection status that does not go as far as “endangered.” That status could eventually lead to restrictions on oil and gas drilling in the bird’s habitat.