On Thursday, December 6, 2018, the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) released proposals that would revise conservation efforts for the sage grouse made under the Obama administration. The changes are being made to enhance cooperation with Western states, and ease restrictions on oil and natural gas drilling, mining, and other activities.

In 2017, the Trump administration announced a review of the Obama-era protection plans for the sage grouse as part of the administration’s energy plan to boost oil and gas production on public lands in the country. The proposed changes by BLM would reduce the area of land identified as critical habitat for the bird by 9 million acres and would give states more flexibility in determining what development to allow near sage grouse habitat.

The changes drew backlash from conservation groups and wildlife advocates who warn excessive use of drilling waivers could push sage grouse onto the list of threatened and endangered species. However, Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt has commented that the goal to save sage grouse remains unchanged.