The Latest: House chairman blasts Trump sage grouse plans

BILLINGS, Mont. — The Latest on the Trump administration's changes to protections for the ground-dwelling sage grouse in the U.S. West (all times local):

10:30 a.m.

The chairman of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee says the Trump administration's decision to ease restrictions on energy development in the West will "hand over" more public land to fossil fuel companies.

Rep. Raul Grijalva is an Arizona Democrat and said Friday's decision will most directly benefit former clients of Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. Bernhardt was an oil and gas industry lobbyist.

Drilling rules and other land use restrictions are being eased through changes to plans meant to guide conservation efforts for greater sage grouse, a ground-dwelling bird that's been in decline.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director Brian Steed told The Associated Press the changes better align federal and state management of grouse habitat.

The chicken-sized birds range across portions of 11 Western states.

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8:20 a.m.

The Trump administration has finalized changes to sweeping land use plans for Western states to ease energy industry restrictions in a way officials say will protect a struggling ground dwelling bird.

The plans released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will guide efforts to protect greater sage grouse.

Environmentalists say the widely-anticipated changes undermine protections for the chicken-sized bird.

But the administration secured backing from Democratic and Republican governors in affected states.

The birds range across 11 Western states.

Their known for their elaborate mating rituals and their numbers have plummeted due to energy development, disease and other factors.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director Brian Steed told The Associated Press the changes better align federal and state management of grouse habitat.

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8 a.m.

The Trump administration is changing sweeping land use plans for Western states to ease energy industry restrictions in a way officials say will protect a struggling bird species.

The plans to be released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will guide efforts to protect greater sage grouse.

Environmentalists warn the widely-anticipated changes could undermine efforts to protect the chicken-sized bird.

But the administration secured backing from Democratic and Republican governors in affected states.

The ground-dwelling birds range across 11 Western states.

They're known for their elaborate mating rituals and their numbers have plummeted due to energy development, disease and other factors.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director Brian Steed told The Associated Press the changes better align federal and state management of grouse habitat.

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12 a.m.

The Trump administration is finalizing plans to ease restrictions on oil and natural gas drilling and other industrial activities that were imposed to protect an imperiled bird species that ranges across the American West.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director Brian Steed told The Associated Press the changes still protect greater sage grouse while addressing concerns that policies adopted by former President Barack Obama were too restrictive.

A formal announcement is expected Friday.

Critics say the changes will mean more disturbances to the bird's habitat, which includes portions of 11 states. Brian Rutledge with the Audubon Society says that will undermine efforts to shore up grouse populations.

The ground-dwelling birds, known for an elaborate mating ritual, have seen steep declines due to energy development, disease and other factors.

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