Sage grouse numbers stumble across US West
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s greater sage grouse population has fallen more than 40% over the past three years, mirroring recent declines across the U.S. West for the wide-ranging bird species that federal officials rejected for protections in 2015.
State wildlife officials estimate there were about 44,000 ground-dwelling sage grouse in Montana this spring. The figure is included in a report to be delivered to state lawmakers later this month.
Sage grouse once numbered in the millions but have seen their range that stretches across portions of 11 states diminished by oil and gas drilling, wildfires, grazing and other pressures.
Grouse numbers also continued to drop in 2019 in Oregon, Idaho , Nevada and Wyoming. Weather can affect populations from year to year, and wildlife officials say those short-term cycles are most directly responsible for the recent declines.
Montana’s drop from almost 78,000 grouse in 2016 was traced to an extreme drought in eastern parts of the state in 2017 that had prolonged impacts, said Catherine Wightman with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Administration drops water protection rule
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The Trump administration on Thursday revoked an Obama-era regulation that shielded many U.S. wetlands and streams from pollution but was opposed by developers and farmers who said it hurt economic development and infringed on property rights.
Environmental groups criticized the administration’s action, the latest in a series of moves to roll back environmental protections put into place under President Barack Obama.
The 2015 Waters of the United States rule defined the waterways subject to federal regulation. Scrapping it “puts an end to an egregious power grab, eliminates an ongoing patchwork of clean water regulations and restores a longstanding and familiar regulatory framework,” Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler said at a news conference in Washington, D.C.
Wheeler and R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, signed a document overturning the rule and temporarily restoring an earlier regulatory system that emerged after a 2006 ruling from a sharply divided Supreme Court.
The agencies plan to adopt a new rule by the end of the year that is expected to define protected waterways more narrowly than the Obama policy.
Grand jury indicts man for El Paso attack
EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A man accused of gunning down people at a busy Walmart in El Paso last month was indicted Thursday for capital murder, prosecutors announced.
Patrick Crusius, 21, of Allen, Texas, was indicted on one count in connection with the Aug. 3 mass shooting that left 22 dead in the border city, District Attorney Jaime Esparza said. El Paso prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Crusius, who remains jailed without bond.
Crusius’ defense lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday. Attorney Mark Stevens previously said he will use “every legal tool available” to prevent his client from being executed.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reacted to the indictment by simply tweeting : “good.”
The El Paso County District Clerk’s office said Crusius’ indictment would not be publicly available until next week because it takes a few days to process and assign the case to a court.
The massacre was the first in a series of mass shootings last month that left dozens dead and, again, brought the debate over guns into the center of American politics.
Prosecutors have said Crusius surrendered to police after the attack saying, “I’m the shooter,” and that he was targeting Mexicans. In court documents, prosecutors alleged that Crusius was the author of a screed published shortly before the shooting that said it was “in response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”