ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
83°
Clear
H 84° L 63°
  • cloudy-day
    83°
    Current Conditions
    Clear. H 84° L 63°
  • clear-night
    64°
    Morning
    Clear. H 84° L 63°
  • cloudy-day
    78°
    Afternoon
    Partly Cloudy. H 82° L 59°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest newscast

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

Business
US eases land restrictions meant to protect bird in West
Close

US eases land restrictions meant to protect bird in West

US eases land restrictions meant to protect bird in West
Photo Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File
FILE - In this April 20, 2013, file photo, male Greater Sage Grouse perform their mating ritual on a lake near Walden, Colo. The Trump administration is finalizing plans to ease restrictions on oil and natural gas drilling and other industry activities that are meant to protect an imperiled bird species that ranges across the American West. U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director Brian Steed told The Associated Press the changes still protect greater sage grouse while addressing concerns that policies under former President Barack Obama were too restrictive. A formal announcement is expected Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

US eases land restrictions meant to protect bird in West

The Trump administration on Friday finalized changes to sweeping federal land use plans for the West, easing restrictions on energy companies and other industries in a way officials said would still protect a struggling bird species.

The changes by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will guide future efforts to conserve greater sage grouse, ground-dwelling birds that range across portions of 11 Western states.

Environmentalists said the widely-anticipated move will undermine protections for the chicken-sized grouse. It would allow more oil and gas drilling, mining and other activities that can disrupt grouse breeding grounds.

But the changes secured key backing from Democratic and Republican governors in affected states, bolstering the administration's position that revisions were needed to plans crafted under former President Barack Obama.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement that the changes marked "a shift away from planning toward active conservation and landscape management."

The birds are known for an elaborate mating ritual in which males fan their tails and puff out yellow air sacs in their chests as they strut around breeding grounds known as leks. Their numbers have plummeted due to energy development, disease and other factors.

Opponents are expected to challenge the changes in court. Brian Rutledge with the Audubon Society said the revisions will make it harder to stop the long-term decline of sage grouse by giving oil and gas companies access to crucial grouse habitat.

"It's a free for all, based on prioritizing fossil fuel extraction over any other use of the federal landscape," Rutledge said.

The chairman of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, Arizona Democrat Rep. Raul Grijalva, said the changes would benefit former clients of acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. Bernhardt worked as an oil and gas industry lobbyist before joining the Trump administration.

Grijalva in a statement called the administration's decision "a smash-and-grab-job on our environment."

U.S. Bureau of Land Management acting Director Brian Steed told The Associated Press the changes address concerns aired by state officials that previous policies governing millions of acres of federal land were too restrictive.

Those policies had been memorialized in a 2015 partnership between Western states and the federal government, but officials from several states had since sought changes.

Steed said the broad revisions to the Obama-era plans were meant to move beyond what he called a "one-size-fits-all" approach under the old rules. He said they give more flexibility to land managers and states concerned about balancing economic development with protections for the bird.

"Our intent was not to throw out the plans, but to make them better respond to the needs on the ground," Steed said. "We're doing that in a very careful way to ensure that the bird's protections are still in effect."

Sage grouse once numbered in the millions but the most recent estimates from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service places the population at between 200,000 and 500,000.

The 2015 plans capped years of negotiations and were intended to prevent the bird from being designated a threatened or endangered species. That status could have brought severe limitations on grazing, energy development and other activities across the bird's range, which covers some 270,000 square miles (700,000 square kilometers).

Under President Donald Trump, Interior Department officials have vowed to lift obstacles to drilling. Grouse protections have long been viewed by the energy industry as an obstacle to development.

The new plans were expected to remove the most protective habitat designations for about 13,000 square miles (34,000 square kilometers) of public land. Those areas, considered essential to the species' survival, were a centerpiece of the Obama policy.

The Trump administration also would drop some requirements to prioritize leasing for oil and gas outside sage grouse habitat and allow for more waivers for drilling.

In Wyoming, one of the most important remaining strongholds for the species, Republican Gov. Mark Gordon said the changes would help economic development while conserving grouse.

Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said the BLM's new approach "will really complement what we're already doing. That's good news for how we manage sage grouse population in the state of Utah."

___

Associated Press writer Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City, Utah, contributed to this story.

___

Follow Matthew Brown at https://twitter.com/matthewbrownap

Read More

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • A widely shared Facebook post shows a lone prayer closet remaining on the site of a home where an EF4 tornado ripped through in Alabama. Earlier in March, a tornado carved a path across Lee County, Alabama destroying homes and ripping up trees.  Only a few buildings and homes were able to make it, including a local grandmother’s prayer closet. According to 11 Alive, Chaplain Jason Smith was out with Billy Graham’s Rapid Response Team and noticed the prayer closet.   In his Facebook post, he reports the entire family who lived there survived. “Listen to me please,” he wrote in the post.  “I just left a family who survived the tornado in this house and the only left standing is this closet.  It’s the grandmother’s prayer closet, and the whole family survived.  Are you kiddin me!!! My God is awesome!!! Shout somebody! --Jason--” As of this article, the two-week old post has been shared over 96 thousand times and garnered more than 62 thousand likes.
  • Federal prosecutors in New York and California announced charges Monday in separate cases against attorney Michael Avenatti. >> Read more trending news Authorities in New York arrested Avenatti on Monday to face allegations out of the Southern District of New York that he attempted to extort Nike and charges of bank and wire fraud out of the Central District of California. >> Read the complaint against Avenatti filed in New York Update 3:20 p.m. EDT March 25: In a statement obtained by CNBC, a Nike spokesperson said the company “has been cooperating with the government’s investigation into NCAA basketball for over a year.” “When Nike became aware of this matter, Nike immediately reported it to federal prosecutors,” the statement said. “When Mr. Avenatti attempted to extort Nike over this matter, Nike with the assistance of outside counsel at Boies Schiller Flexner, aided the investigation.” Authorities said Avenatti and an unnamed co-conspirator attempted to extort Nike of more than $20 million by threatening “to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met.” Citing a pair of unidentified sources, The Wall Street Journal reported the unnamed co-conspirator allegedly involved in the case was attorney Mark Geragos. Update 3:05 p.m. EDT March 25: Investigators with the IRS launched a probe into Aveantti more than a year ago, after an official noticed “irregularities” while attempting to collect payroll taxes from Avenatti, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Nick Hanna said. The bank and wire fraud “allegations ... paint an ugly picture of lawless conduct and greed,” Hanna said, calling Avenatti “a corrupt lawyer who ... fights for his own selfish interests by misappropriating close to $1 million that rightfully belonged to one of his clients.” Hanna said Avenatti negotiated a settlement for one of his clients in December 2017 as part of an intellectual property dispute. Under the settlement, Avenatti’s client was expected to get $1.6 million in January 2018. However, Hanna said Avenatti presented his client with a false settlement agreement that listed March 2018 at the date by which the payment was due. The payment was made to an account controlled by Avenatti on Jan. 5, 2018. “Mr. Avenatti then used his client’s money to pay expenses for his own coffee business, Global Baristas LLC which did business as Tully’s coffee as well as to pay his own expenses,” Hanna said. Avenatti was arrested Monday in New York to face federal charges on both the east and west coasts. Avenatti is facing a maximum of 50 years in prison if he’s convicted of the bank and wire fraud charges in California. Federal prosecutors in New York also charged Avenatti in a separate case in which he was accused of attempting to extort Nike. Update 2:35 p.m. EDT March 25: Authorities in New York are providing more details Monday in the case against Avenatti. Update 2:20 p.m. EDT March 25: Authorities in California are providing more details Monday in the case against Avenatti. Update 2:15 p.m. EDT March 25: Avenatti’s former client, Stormy Daniels, said in a statement Monday that she was “saddened but not shocked by news reports that he has been criminally charged.” “I made the decision more than a month ago to terminate Michael’s services after discovering that he had dealt with me extremely dishonestly,” Daniels said. Avenatti represented Daniels in her court battle to throw out a non-disclosure agreement she had signed before the 2016 presidential election. The agreement barred her from talking about a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump years before the election. Original report: Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York said Avenatti attempted “to extract more than $20 million in payments from a public traded company by threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met.” The company was identified in a criminal complaint as Nike. Earlier Monday, Avenatti had announced plans to hold a press conference Tuesday “to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike.” Authorities said in a complaint filled in court that Avenatti and another person threatened to release damaging information about Nike unless the company “did not agree to make multi-million dollar payments” to Avenatti and an unnamed co-conspirator. Avenatti “threatened to hold a press conference on the eve of Nike’s quarterly earnings call and the start of the annual (NCAA) tournament at which he would announce allegations of misconduct by employees of Nike,” prosecutors said.  “Avenatti stated that he would refrain from holding the press conference and harming Nike only if Nike made a payment of $1.5 million to a client of Avenatti’s in possession of information damaging to Nike... and agreed to ‘retain’ Avenatti and (the unnamed co-conspirator) to conduct an ‘internal investigation’ -- an investigation that Nike did not request.” Authorities said Avenatti told Nike’s attorneys in a phone call on Wednesday that, “I’ll go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap ... I’m not (expletive) around.” Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles announced Monday they were charging Avenatti with wire and bank fraud in a separate case. Authorities plan to detail charges against him at a news conference scheduled for 2 p.m. EDT. Check back for updates to this developing story.
  • An Italian couple is under investigation after authorities say they performed a home circumcision on their 5-month-old son, causing the boy’s death.  The boy, whose parents are of Ghanian origin, was in critical condition when he was taken Friday night to a hospital in Scandiano in the province of Reggio Emilia, Italy’s ANSA news agency reported. He died overnight. >> Read more trending news This weekend’s death is not the first of a child who underwent an illegal circumcision in Italy. The BBC reported that a 2-year-old boy bled to death in December after undergoing a failed circumcision at a migrant center in the Roman suburb of Monterotondo.  The boy’s twin brother underwent the same surgery but survived after a stint in the intensive care unit.  In the December case, a 66-year-old man was charged with murder in the toddler’s death, the BBC reported.  The 2-year-old and his brother were born in Italy, but their parents were from Nigeria, according to the BBC. The man charged with killing the boy is an American of Libyan heritage.  The BBC reported that circumcision is unavailable in public health institutions. Italy’s Roman Catholic majority does not practice circumcision, but many of the country’s Muslim immigrants do.  Private clinics will perform the procedure, but the surgery can be costly. There are people willing to circumcise children for a fraction of the cost, the news agency reported.  In the December case, the procedure was performed at a refugee center run by the Monterotondo council and nonprofit group Arci. Arci officials condemned the incident in a Facebook post, in which they said in 2018, there should be “no sorcerers and midwives.” “The Monterotondo tragedy leaves the whole of Arci, starting with our Arci workers in Rome, sorrowful and upset,” the post read, as translated from Italian. One commenter argued for a near-complete ban on circumcision.   “Circumcision should be considered a sexual mutilation, apart from the few cases in which it is appropriate for medical reasons, and therefore prohibited and punished if practiced,” the woman, Claudia Lanzi, wrote.  Another woman, Barbara Pilati, asked how it is mutilation if it causes no damage. “It is made to children who cannot express their opinion,” Lanzi responded.  ANSA reported that between 4,000 and 5,000 immigrant children undergo circumcisions in Italy each year. About 35 percent of those procedures are done illegally.  Yassine Lafram, who heads the Bologna area’s Islamic community, condemned the fatal procedure on the infant Monday. “We learn of the terrible news of the death of a 5-month-old baby following an illegal circumcision with dismay,” Lafram told ANSA. “It’s a death that could certainly have been avoided and pains us deeply.”
  • Police opened an investigation Monday into a deadly officer-involved shooting in north Charlotte. >> Read more trending news Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Kerr Putney told WSOC-TV that officers responded just after 9 a.m. to the Burger King on Beatties Ford Road, near Interstate 85.  Dozens of police cruisers could be seen surrounding the fast-food restaurant, which was roped off with crime scene tape. Putney said officers responded to a call about an armed man at the business. The man gave employees an uneasy feeling, Putney said, so they called police. When officers arrived, they spotted the man outside the Burger King, according to Putney. Authorities said the man was still armed when officers arrived, and they repeatedly ordered him to drop the weapon. Putney said an officer felt there was a lethal threat and shot the man at least once. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His name has not been released. A witness told WSOC-TV the armed man had gotten into an argument with an employee inside the restaurant and that another man intervened and was assaulted by the suspect. Police have not confirmed that witness's account. Police said no officers were hurt. The shooting remains under investigation, and no other details have been released.
  • ORLANDO, Fla. - The trailer for the new movie, Lucy in the Sky,  portrays Natalie Portman as an astronaut struggling to readjust to life on Earth after seeing 'the whole universe.' The film is loosely based on real-life astronaut Lisa Nowak, who became embroiled in an affair with fellow astronaut Bill Oefelein. But when they broke up, and he began to date U.S. Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman, Nowak became enraged. She made national headlines when she drove 900 miles from Houston to Orlando and packed a trench coat, black wig, pepper spray, a BB gun, rope, trash bags and an 8-inch knife in an attempt to kidnap Shipman. Nowak was discharged from NASA and the Navy.

Washington Insider

  • A day after Congress was told the Mueller investigation had not found evidence of coordination or conspiracy involving Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 elections, a leading GOP Senator vowed to fully investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, arguing that President Donald Trump may have been the victim of overzealous investigators inside the Justice Department. 'The double standard here has been striking and quite frankly disappointing,' said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who told reporters at the Capitol on Monday morning that it's time to find out more about how the investigation began during the 2016 campaign, how it meshed with the probe into Hillary Clinton's emails, and whether there had been bias inside the Justice Department and FBI against President Trump. While Graham said he would conduct oversight via the Senate Judiciary Committee, the South Carolina Republican also said he wants a more formal review by the Justice Department, and U.S. Attorney General William Barr. 'What I want to do is see if he'll appoint a Special Counsel,' Graham said, as he argued that President Trump had been unfairly targeted. Graham said he would look at the role of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch - who tried to step back from the Clinton email investigation, which led to the broader involvement of former FBI Director James Comey. 'What was the conflict that made Loretta Lynch so unable to preside over the Clinton email investigation?' Graham asked. While Graham ticked off the boxes of a series of questions which have dominated conservative talk radio over the past two years, the ally of the President made clear he agreed with the Mueller report findings on one very key issue - that the Russians were responsible for the hacking of the Democratic Party in 2016. “It was the Russians - it wasn’t some 300 pound guy sitting on a bed somewhere,” Graham said, making reference to a quote by President Trump, who at times has rejected assertions that Russian Intelligence was responsible for the hacking of emails from Clinton campaign and DNC officials. Graham said he also wanted answers on how the Obama Administration handled the initial developments in the Russia investigation - which came during the 2016 campaign. 'Nobody went to President Trump to tell him, there may be some people in your orbit that are connected to the Russians and working with the Russians,' Graham said at a news conference. At the White House, President Trump kept his comments limited about the Mueller report, saying he would not oppose the release of the details of the report, if that’s what Attorney General Barr wants to do. Asked during an event in the Oval Office whether the Special Counsel had done his job honorably, Mr. Trump responded: 'Yes, he did.' “I wish it could have gone a lot sooner, a lot quicker,” the President added.