Energy & Environment

Court nixes Trump move to open 10 million acres to mining

A federal judge on Thursday ruled against a Trump administration decision to open up 10 million acres of land to mining that had previously been protected as habitat for the sage grouse bird. 

Lynn Winmill, a federal judge in Idaho, ruled that the administration did not sufficiently justify its decision to remove the protections given to the area. 

Winmill said he was not persuaded by the Bureau of Land Management’s argument that its decision to withdraw protections from the lands, located in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming, was based on new data. 

“The new data showed that the impacts from locatable mining was more significant than the previous data showed,” the Clinton appointee wrote. “The new data does not, therefore, provide a reasoned explanation for the BLM’s change in position regarding the withdrawal. If anything, this new data indicated a greater need for the withdrawal from locatable mining than the previous data.”

Sage grouse can be found in the Western U.S. Male birds have a notable mating ritual in which they puff out the yellow-ish sacs in their chest to attract female birds. 

The Bureau of Land Management declined to comment. 

Environmental groups, meanwhile, praised the court’s decision as a win for the birds. 

“This illegal gift to the mining industry lifted protections for 10 million acres of the most important sage-grouse habitat and would’ve pushed this beautiful bird closer to extinction,” said Michael Saul, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. 

“Now the new Interior secretary can establish appropriate habitat protections based on science, not favoritism to the mining industry,” Saul added. 

Tags birds Mining sage grouse
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