The Obama administration teed up plans to block hard-rock mining on as many as 10 million acres in the western U.S. to protect the greater sage grouse, setting up a test for Donald Trump on how he will weigh business interests and the environment.
The final decision about whether to block activity under new mining claims in sagebrush territory across six western states rests with the president-elect, but may be influenced by the draft environmental analysis and proposal the U.S. Interior Department issued Thursday.
The Obama administration determined in 2015 that the greater sage grouse didn’t warrant listing as an endangered species, yet unveiled land-use plans meant to protect the prickly sagebrush plants seen as critical to the survival of the chicken-like bird known for its colorful courtship ritual.
Interior’s Bureau of Land Management also proposed a potentially two-decade ban on new mineral exploration and mining claims in the “sagebrush focal areas” while it studied the environmental effects of the activity.
As part of that review, the bureau studied its original proposal as well as several others, including a suggestion from Nevada to swap in some 388,000 acres of sagebrush territory in exchange for removing 488,000 acres believed to be rich in minerals.
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