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Previous story Judge: Trump's lifting of mining ban in Oregon, U.S. West was wrong Next story
     


Story by The Associated Press
Published on Saturday February 13, 2021 - 6:16 AM

 
BILLINGS, Mont. — A federal judge on Thursday overturned a Trump administration action that allowed mining and other development on 10 million acres in parts of six western states that are considered important for the survival of a struggling bird species.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill said the decision under Trump to cancel a prior effort to ban mining failed to fully consider how the move would affect greater sage grouse, a wide-ranging, chicken-sized bird that has seen a dramatic population drop in recent decades.

Winmill said the 2017 cancellation was arbitrary. He ordered the U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management to reconsider whether mining should be allowed.

The Idaho-based judge's ruling does not revive a temporary mining ban imposed under Democratic President Barack Obama, which expired while the issue was in dispute. Whether that happens will be up to the administration of President Joe Biden, said attorney Michael Saul of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the environmental groups that sued over the Trump administration's actions.

Saul said he was not aware of any major mining projects that moved forward in the affected areas under Trump.

"That's a lot of habitat for sage grouse, but it's not a lot of land compared to all of the federal estate" that's open for mining, he said.

Lifting the ban under Trump in 2017 allowed the potential for mining and other development, primarily in Idaho and Nevada but also in parts of Montana, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Officials at the time said an analysis showed mining or grazing would not pose a significant threat to the ground-dwelling birds.

Winmill said in his ruling that the analysis was incomplete and ignored prior science on the issue.