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Environment & Science

Judge Strikes Down U.S. Energy Leasing Rules In Bird Habitat

A photo taken on March 28, 2016 of a Sage Grouse atop a snowy plain.
U.S. Forest Service
Greater Sage Grouse

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A U.S. judge has dealt a setback to the Trump administration’s efforts to increase domestic oil and gas exploration.

Judge Brian Morris said administration officials failed to protect habitat for a declining bird species when it issued leases on hundreds of thousands of acres.

The case involves greater sage grouse, a ground dwelling bird that’s seen its numbers drop dramatically in recent decades.

In his ruling on May 22, Morris struck down administration policies that have allowed more drilling in sage grouse habitat.

The judge also canceled leases on more than 300,000 acres in Montana and Wyoming and said officials would have to return the sales proceeds to companies.