US officials move to ease Obama-era drilling restrictions

The Trump administration moved forward with plans to ease restrictions on oil and gas drilling and other activities across millions of acres in the American West that were put in place to protect an imperiled bird species.

Land management documents released by the Interior Department show the administration intends to open more areas to leasing and allow waivers for drilling to encroach into the habitat of greater sage grouse.

The ground-dwelling bird ranges across about 270,000 square miles in parts of 11 Western U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. Its numbers have plummeted in recent decades.

Federal officials under President Obama in 2015 adopted a sweeping set of land use restrictions intended to benefit grouse.

But President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have vowed to open public lands to drilling, and grouse protections have long been viewed by the energy industry as an obstacle to development.

Dawn Kamber