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Judge blocks drilling plans in two countries, citing bird habitat

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A judge has halted plans for oil and gas drilling on vast areas of Wyoming and Montana, citing concerns about a sagebrush-dwelling bird.The U.S. Bureau of Land Management didn’t adequately consider how the drilling would affect the greater sage grouse, nor an option to defer drilling in the bird’s prime habitat,…

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A judge has halted plans for gas and oil drilling on vast regions of Wyoming and Montana, citing concerns regarding a sagebrush-dwelling bird.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management did not adequately consider how the drilling could influence the greater sage grouse, nor an option to defer drilling in the bird’s prime habitat, Idaho U.S. District Judge Ronald E. Bush ruled Wednesday.

Bush ordered study of potential effects on the bird prior to drilling might proceed.

The drilling could occur on over 600 square kilometers (1,500 square km ) of national land sprinkled across the energy-rich states. The Bureau of Land Management auctioned off hundreds of leases in sage grouse habitat in four sales in 2017.

Sage grouse are a chicken-sized, mostly ground-dwelling bird whose numbers have dropped significantly in the countless that inhabited the U.S. West in frontier times. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined in 2010 the bird lacked special protection but said in 2015 that conservation efforts led by Wyoming made that unnecessary.

The environmental group that sued over the rentals praised Bush’s ruli

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