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Explore our latest coverage of environmental issues, climate change and more.

VLS Professor Says Land Development Will Threaten Sage Grouse Population

Male sage grouse, pictured in Colorado in April 2014, in a snowy field.
David Zalubowski
Associated Press File
Male greater sage grouse, in Colorado in April 2013, partake in the species' mating ritual. The Trump administration recently announced plans to remove protections for sage grouse to allow millions of acres of land to be opened for drilling and mining.

The Trump administration announced plans last week to open millions of acres of land to drilling and mining by removing protections for the sage grouse, an imperiled ground-nesting bird that resides in the American West.

VPR spoke with Pat Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at Vermont Law School, about what that could mean for the bird’s future.

Parenteau said the sage grouse’s habitat — which stretches across 9 million acres over 10 states – is protected because the bird has suffered a "catastrophic decline in its population." He said biologists call the bird an “umbrella species” because it reflects the health of the entire sage brush ecosystem.

While advocates say industrial development won’t impact the sage grouse population, Parenteau said the birds need large swaths of land for heat protection and to breed — and he predicts a rollback in public land protections will be met with plenty of new lawsuits.

Listen to Parenteau's conversation with VPR's Mitch Wertlieb above.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
Bayla joined VPR in 2018 as the producer for Morning Edition. She left in 2019.
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