The Trump administration intends to publish this week a notice of intent to overhaul an Obama-era plan to protect sage grouse, a chicken-sized Western bird, according to a report Thursday.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke this year ordered a review of former President Barack Obama's sage grouse plans to see if they were limiting energy production.
A special sage grouse task force in the Interior Department issued recommendations last month in a 53-page report, focusing on giving states more flexibility under Obama's sage grouse protection plan.
The report recommends the Interior Department work with states to determine appropriate levels for the bird populations on a state-by-state basis, while giving states more flexibility on how to meet the previous administration's land protection standards. It recommends the agency clarify the process for how states can acquire waivers and exceptions in priority habitat areas.
The recommendations came in response to the complaints from oil and natural gas drilling companies, as well as farmers, ranchers and other land developers over the sage grouse policy.
The Interior Department intends to act on those recommendations this week, the New York Times reported. It will publish a formal notice of intent to amend 98 sage grouse habitat management plans across 10 states, the Times said, citing agency and state officials who were briefed on the effort.
The seven-page draft notice says the Bureau of Land Management plans to consider amending "all or some [Bureau of Land Management] land-use plans that were amended or revised in 2014 or 2015 regarding greater sage grouse conservation in the states of California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Montana."
After the notice appears, there will be a 45-day comment period during which the public can propose changes to the plans.
Former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, in creating the Obama administration's policy, tried to strike a balance between maintaining the bird's habitat while avoiding implementing stricter protections under the Endangered Species Act.
Those plans, completed in 2015, involved negotiations with conservationists, sportsmen, energy industry officials, and federal, state, local and tribal authorities.
Jewell described the plans as a compromise meant to keep the sage grouse off the endangered species list, which would have imposed greater restrictions on land occupied by the birds.
Conservation and environmental groups criticized Zinke's intent to unwind the plans.
"Secretary Zinke is turning his back on a bipartisan, collaborative conservation effort to protect the greater sage-grouse habitat and Western economies," said Tiernan Sittenfeld, vice president for government affairs with the League of Conservation Voters. "Instead of listening to the governors, local leaders, ranchers and others who worked for years on an unparalleled plan to conserve fragile habitat while meeting the needs of communities, Zinke is looking to sell out the sagebrush to his friends in the fossil fuel industry. This is yet another example of the Trump administration undermining sound management of our public lands."