US pushes changes to Western land plans that judge blocked

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Greater Sage Grouse

FILE – In this April 20, 2013 file photo, male greater sage grouse perform mating rituals for a female grouse, not pictured, on a lake outside Walden, Colo. The U.S. Forest Service said Friday, Aug. 2, 2019, that it wants to reduce designated habitat in Wyoming and Nevada for the ground-dwelling bird. More than 8,000 square miles of national forest land has been set aside as protected habitat for the birds in Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – U.S. Interior Department officials are seeking to bolster their case for easing restrictions on energy development, mining and grazing in seven Western states.

A federal judge in Idaho blocked the Trump administration plans last year over concerns that they could harm greater sage grouse, a ground-dwelling bird. Assistant Interior Secretary Casey Hammond says a new set of environmental studies published Friday clarifies the steps the government will take to conserve sage grouse habitat.

The Interior Department opened a 45-day public comment period on the studies that cover millions of acres of public lands in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon and California.

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