The U.S. Department of the Interior has ordered an internal review of sage grouse plans and programs. (Bureau of Land Management)

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has announced that regulations protecting the sage grouse – rules which have been subject to years of negotiation and controversy in Western states – are once again under review.

This puts the Greater Sage Grouse Conservation plan, finalized in 2015, in a state of flux.

Zinke stressed that the Trump administration wants to see improvement in the bird’s conservation, but also wants to make sure that state agencies are “heard on this issue.” He said that possible modifications would take into account “local economic growth and job creation.”

It’s safe to say that the sage grouse, found only in North America, is a singular, strange bird that elicits strong feelings. The bird is about the size of a chicken and is known for its mating dances, involving distinctive puffing and popping from the males.

Take a look:

For decades, it has seen a drop in its population stretched across in 11 Western states. The bird cannot live in areas without sagebrush and is very sensitive to human development — as NPR’s Nathan Rott reported, “a disturbance can be almost anything that fragments the landscape: roads, transmission lines, wind turbines, cattle fences, subdivisions, oil pads.”

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SOURCE: NPR, Merrit Kennedy

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