Montana Oil Drilling Restricted to Protect Sage Grouse
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Gov. Steve Bullock has ordered restrictions on future oil drilling and other activities blamed for driving down sage grouse populations.
With Tuesday's executive order, Montana joins other Western states rushing to head off federal intervention with the birds. Bullock characterized the order as a compromise. It provides incentives for landowners to conserve the bird's habitat. It also establishes buffers around key breeding areas where drilling work and other activity would be generally barred.
Industry representatives say energy companies will have to alter their activities to comply. But Josh Osher with the Western Watersheds Project says the order won't reverse the bird's decades-long decline. Sage grouse are found in 11 states. They've lost more than half their historic habitat to development. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must decide if federal protections are needed by September 2015.