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Airline travel and more disrupted by global tech outage; Nevada gets OK to sell federal public lands for affordable housing;Science Moms work to foster meaningful talks on climate change; Scientists reconsider net-zero pledges to reach climate goals.

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As Trump accepts nomination for President, delegates emphasize themes of unity and optimism envisioning 'new golden age.' But RNC convention was marked by strong opposition to LGBTQ rights, which both opened and closed the event.

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It's grass-cutting season and with it, rural lawn mower races, Montana's drive-thru blood project is easing shortages, rural Americans spend more on food when transportation costs are tallied, and a lack of good childcare is thwarting rural business owners.

Feds updating management plans for threatened sage grouse ecosystem

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Tuesday, June 18, 2024   

After nearly a decade of delays, a federal agency is working on a new resource management plan that will affect an iconic Western bird species.

The greater sage grouse is an umbrella species, meaning its health indicates the health of the whole ecosystem in which it lives. Neither is doing well. Efforts by the Trump administration to water down Obama-era protections for the bird were blocked by a federal court, so a new Bureau of Land Management plan will be the first since 2015.

Nearly 40% of the remaining sage grouse population lives in Wyoming, where its sagebrush steppe ecosystem has been declining because of livestock grazing, oil and gas development.

Erik Molvar, executive director of the Western Watersheds Project, said a new threat is emerging.

"The plan will also need to put in some sidebars to prevent the destruction of sage grouse habitat for renewable energy development, which is on the rise in Wyoming," he said.

The comment period closed last week for the latest draft amendments for 77 land-use plans, which would affect 69 million acres of public lands across 10 states. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the sage grouse population has declined by 40% since 2002.

The BLM's focus in its management plans is on allowing multiple uses throughout its land base, and its 77 specified plans should have more uniform protections for sage grouse, instead of catering to the desires of local industry, Molvar said.

"If the Bureau of Land Management could bring this crazy quilt of different plan provisions and protection levels into a more consistent level of protection that meets the biological needs of the sage grouse, that would be ideal," he continued.

The bird was nearly added to the Endangered Species list in 2015, which would have placed it under stringent federal control. A final environmental impact statement is expected from the BLM this fall.


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