WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday detailed its plan to open nine million acres to drilling and mining by stripping away protections for the sage grouse, an imperiled ground-nesting bird that oil companies have long considered an obstacle to some of the richest deposits in the American West.
In one stroke, the action would open more land to drilling than any other step the administration has taken, environmental policy experts said. It drew immediate criticism from environmentalists while energy-industry representatives praised the move, saying that the earlier policy represented an overreach of federal authority.
“This is millions and millions of acres of Western land that stretch across the spine of this nation,” said Bobby McEnaney, an expert in Western land use at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group. “With this single action, the administration is saying: This landscape doesn’t matter. This species doesn’t matter. Oil and gas matter.”
Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, an association of independent oil and gas companies based in Denver, said in an email, “These plans will conserve the sage grouse without needlessly stifling economic activity.”