The interior department temporarily segregated about 10 million acres (4 million hectares) of public and national forest system lands in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming for two years from September 2015 as part of an agreement to not place sage grouse, a ground-dwelling, chicken-like bird, on the federal endangered species list.
The US fish and wildlife service (FWS) identified habitat disturbance and fragmentation caused by certain hardrock mining operations as a threat to the bird's habitat.
A decision in early October saw the interior department rescind restrictions in areas where mining is currently prohibited in six Western states: Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. The bureau of land management (BLM), part of the interior department, said a recent analysis showed mining or grazing would not pose a significant threat to the grouse.
"The proposal to withdraw 10 million acres to prevent 10,000 (acres) from potential mineral development was a complete overreach," acting BLM director Mike Nedd said. "We can be successful in conserving greater sage grouse habitat without stifling economic development and job growth."
The sage grouse protection measures were widely viewed as unnecessarily draconian and restrictive by the natural resources sector. Utah's congressional delegation, including senator Orrin Hatch, said the BLM's previous approach "would have imposed heavy-handed restrictions that would have disproportionately hurt western communities".
Laura Skaer, executive director of the American Exploration and Mining Association, said: "secretary Zinke has done the right thing by ending this epic federal land grab. These land-use restrictions and withdrawals were a blatant overreach by the BLM and a thinly-veiled attempt to impose a top-down policy, completely disregarding states' efforts, statutory requirements and public involvement."
The end to the ban is yet another move by the administration of US president Donald Trump to repeal environmental protections enacted by the administration of former president Barack Obama.
The Trump administration has also said it will end the clean power plan, an Obama regulation aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants believed to be a key contributor to global warming.