Oil & Gas Leases in Sage-Grouse Habitat
Western Watersheds Project and Center for Biological Diversity V. Ryan K. Zinke, David Bernhardt; and BLM
Center for Biological Diversity
Western Watersheds Project
April 30, 2018 – Advocates for the West filed a lawsuit challenging Trump Administration policies that gut protections for imperiled greater sage-grouse and allow oil and gas leases on nearly 2 million acres of the bird’s prime habitat.
Our suit demonstrates that the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management violated the National Environmental Policy Act and Federal Lands Policy and Management Act when it approved eight massive oil and gas lease sales in Nevada, Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
The leases were enabled by two Trump policies, one directive rolling back hard-won compromises to preserve dwindling sage-grouse populations across the West and another that the BLM claims will “alleviate unnecessary impediments and burdens” and “expedite the offering of lands for lease” by cutting the public out of oil and gas planning on public lands.
This suit marks the first legal challenge to the Interior Department’s controversial January policy that slashed transparency, public participation and environmental reviews before oil and gas leases are auctioned. This policy, together with the massive leases in sage-grouse habitat, are part of Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda, intended to sweep aside environmental protections to speed fossil fuel development on public land.
Under land-use plans adopted in 2015, the Interior Department is obligated to restrict fracking and drilling leases to areas outside of key sage-grouse habitat in order to avoid listing the bird under the Endangered Species Act. Under Zinke, the BLM has ignored this policy, putting nearly 2 million acres of habitat on the auction block – more than 1.3 million in 2018 alone.