Conservationists say proposal could hurt bird

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Conservationists say a Trump administration proposal to ease restrictions on energy leases and other activities on Western lands could unravel efforts to protect an imperiled bird.

Interior Department officials on Wednesday released draft changes to conservation plans for the greater sage grouse in seven states. The protections were approved in 2015 under former President Barack Obama.

The ground-dwelling, chicken-sized birds are known for an elaborate mating ritual. Their numbers declined sharply in recent decades, due in part to oil and gas drilling that drove them off breeding grounds.

Administration officials say the proposed revisions to the Obama-era plans are aimed at increasing flexibility in the management of lands where the birds reside.