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Biden Considering New Protections for Greater Sage Grouse – Mother Jones
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Biden Considering New Protections for Greater Sage Grouse – Mother Jones

Biden Considering New Protections for Greater Sage Grouse – Mother Jones


Greater sage grouse.Kerry Hargrove/Getty

This story was first published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The Biden administrationConsiders new protections for greater sage-grouse, a bird that is well-known for its courtship displays and strutting, and is currently being threatened by climate change and industrial pressures.

The sage grouse, known also for a bubbling sound during courtship, is fast-becoming emblematic of Biden’s efforts to reverse Trump-era relaxations of environmental protections across vast swaths of public federal lands across the region.

The bird is a symbol of conflict between conservationists, energy companies, and those who want to exploit resources below its range.

After decades of loosening protections, successive administrations have imposed and reversed directives regarding permits relating oil and gas drilling and grazing.

According to Audubon’s Guide to North American BirdsThe greater sagegrouse has been wiped out of much of its former range. Climate change and habitat loss have caused population declines across large areas in Utah, Wyoming and Montana. It is estimated that as much as 90% of its natural environment have been lost.

The Trump administration attempted to reduce conservation efforts made by Biden, vice-president, two years prior. These conservation efforts had affected 10m acres of land in the west of the United States. But, a federal court blocked Trump’s changes.

But environmentalists argue that Biden’s 2015 conservation plans were in themselves insufficient to close loopholes allowing for grazing and drilling on public land.

Resurgent disagreements about greater sagegrouse protections will likely grow stronger, with Republican-run States clashing with wildlife advocates over how many birds need to survive.

Greater sage-grouse populations are dropped 65 percent since 1986According to government scientists, the conclusion is:

The Montana Democratic senator Jon Tester has said he believes Biden’s new Bureau of Land Management director, Tracy Stone-Manning, a former aide, would pursue a collaborative, balanced approach that would protect the grouse from becoming an endangered species.

But western-state Republicans—including Montana’s governor, Greg Gianforte, and Wyoming’s governor, Mark Gordon, along with aligned senators, have said states should be given deference to wildlife management and federal lands kept open for energy exploration and grazing.

According to the BLM agency, it will examine how climate change is increasing pressures on the grouse populations. Culver pointed to data showing wildfires burned almost 10,700 sq miles of the bird’s habitat since 2016.

Federal officials stated earlier this year that they would be considering bans on new mining to help the birds. Environmentalists warn that even reimposing Obama Biden-era protections may not be enough to stop disturbance of the sagegrouse habitat.

“The Obama administration did their best to please all the different ends of the political spectrum. But in the end they didn’t please anybody and they didn’t give the sage grouse the habitat they needed,” Erik Molvar of the Western Watersheds Project told the Associated Press.


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