Conservationists criticized the Trump administration Friday for rolling back protections for the sage grouse, saying industry was prioritized over the wellbeing of the threatened bird.
The new plan from the U.S. Forest Service would ease protections for the sage grouse on 5.2 million acres of land scattered across the West that also serve as sought-after grazing pasture for ranchers.
“From our wildlands to our precious habitat and threatened iconic species, nature is bearing the brunt of the Trump administration’s reckless governance,” the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a statement. “This move by the Forest Service unravels carefully crafted safeguards to promote extractive industries’ interests. It runs roughshod over sensible policy, science, and the natural resources we all, collectively, own.”
A release from the Department of Agriculture described the new standards as “common sense, locally-driven strategies” that update the 2015 plan for the species.
“Stakeholders have since raised concerns that the 2015 plans would impact economic growth and did not align with conservation plans laid out by the states,” the Forest Service said in a release. “The 2019 plans have been adapted to take into account site-specific conditions to ensure ranchers, permittees, and industry can adapt to their local conditions rather than be forced to conform to a one-size-fits-all, national approach.”
Environmentalists have long rallied to save this distinctive-looking bird, the males of which puff out yellow-green sacs in their chest in order to attract the opposite sex, their pointy tail feathers spread behind them like peacock plumage. Their habitat in the West often collides with interests from the oil and gas industry, as well as farmers and ranchers.