A recent announcement by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that regulations protecting sage grouse will again be reviewed could put the plan that protects the bird with the unique mating dance in peril, according to reports.
The Greater Sage Grouse Conservation Plan was, after years of negotiations, finalized in 2015. But two years later, the plan and ultimately the fate of sage grouse again are up in the air.
Zinke says he wants to give the 11 western states where the bird is found more flexibility in choosing how they protect the sage grouse, according to reports. He said that possible modifications would take into account local economic growth and job creation, including if the plans are hindering energy production on public lands.
But the birds, found only in North America, are very sensitive to human development and cannot live in areas without sagebrush. The sage grouse population has dropped by up to 90 percent in the last few decades – to somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000 birds, according to reports. And in 2010, sage grouse numbers dipped low enough to be considered for the Endangered Species Act.
But as it took many years to finalize the plan, reopening any aspect of it also is expected to be a yearslong process, reports say.