The sage grouse, which is known for its unique mating dance and only found in North America, has lost up to 90% of its population over the past few decades, dwindling to between 200,000 and 500,000 birds. Now a plan to save the sage grouse that took years to negotiate is in danger. The Trump administration announced this week it's reviewing the 2015 Greater Sage Grouse Conservation Plan to address concerns from the 11 western states where the bird is found and give greater consideration to "local economic growth and job creation," NPR reports. According to Reuters, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says he wants to give states concerned the conservation plan is too "heavy-handed" more "flexibility" in choosing how they protect the sage grouse.
Environmentalists worry the sage grouse could be under greater threat than ever if the conservation plan is altered. The bird relies on sagebrush and is highly sensitive to development; everything from roads to cattle fences to wind turbines can hurt populations. The conservation plan controls commercial development on 67 million acres of federal land. It was opposed by the oil, gas, and mining industries, who claimed it could cost them billions in lost profits. Already two governors from sage grouse states have come out against changing the conservation plan, and the Audubon Society says Zinke could be about to "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory," the Washington Post reports. The group reviewing the plan has 60 days to issue a recommendation. (Read more conservation stories.)