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Conservation group: Sage grouse, drilling can coexist

Conservation group: Sage grouse, drilling can coexist
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A conservation group says the federal government’s proposed plan to protect the greater sage grouse won’t have an impact on oil and gas drilling operations in the West. 

The Western Values Project released a report Thursday showing that the area of the grouse’s habitat that federal regulators are considering for protection covers less than 13 percent of existing oil and gas drilling land in the western U.S.

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The small percentage, the group said, means the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) protection plan would let the grouse and the fossil fuel industry coexist there.

“This new analysis underscores once and for all just how minimal of an impact these carefully-crafted BLM plans will have on the energy industry,” the group said Thursday. 

“The analysis also shows that it’s time to move full-steam ahead with finalizing these plans, given that we can now rest assured that they are not only a boost for the sage-grouse and its habitat — they’re good for western economies, as well.”

The BLM proposed a plan in May that would protect 11 million acres of “sagebrush focal areas” across the western U.S., as well as another swath of “second-tier” sage grouse habitat there. 

The Western Values Project cross-referenced those proposed protection areas with current and projected oil and gas development land tracked by the federal government. The group found that the focal areas would only overlap with 1.34 percent of the energy plays, and the second-tier protection area would overlap with 11.6 percent.

The BLM’s plan drew criticism from Republicans when it was announced in May. Lawmakers opposed to federal protections for the grouse have argued such a plan would hurt energy development in western states, and they’ve looked to block the federal government from advancing Endangered Species Act projections on the bird.

Western states, likewise, are working to avoid an Endangered Species Act listing, and federal officials are hesitant to institute one as well. 

Interior Secretary Sally JewellSarah (Sally) Margaret JewellBiden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten key air pollution standards | Despite risks to polar bears, Trump pushes ahead with oil exploration in Arctic | Biden to champion climate action in 2021 OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA proposes reapproving uses of pesticide linked to brain damage in children | Hispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan Grisham | Schwarzenegger backs Nichols to lead EPA MORE said this week that she hopes the Fish and Wildlife Service will choose not to list the bird, a decision officials are required by court order to make before the end of the month.