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The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it will review a massive and controversial federal plan to protect the dwindling population of greater sage grouse in 11 western states.
Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke said he assembled a review team comprised of scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to study a plan that took many years to develop. The group has 60 days to return with recommendations.
Zinke said the administrative order to review the plan “does not change or alter existing work that has been done.” The purpose is to work more closely with states that deplored the management plan when the Obama administration implemented it two years ago.
The two-month review will take into consideration issues that concern some western politicians: jobs and energy development, some of the very things that scientists say led to the bird’s decline.
In remarks Wednesday, Zinke said that anger is still palpable. “When I travel around, there’s a lot of anger of what is perceived, either right or wrong, as heavy-handedness,” he said. “The federal government doesn’t listen. There’s a lot of mistrust. My largest and most important task, quite frankly, is to restore trust. I can tell you a lot of these local communities . . . just don’t think they’ve had a voice, and I don’t disagree with them in many ways.”
Zinke mentioned speaking only to state officials and residents and not to other groups, such as the Nature Conservancy, that played a major role in helping states and the federal government develop the plan. He said states had innovative ideas to build the population of sage grouse, including the control of tree-perching predators that don’t belong in the sage habitat.