Sheeprocks Sage-Grouse Appeal
Notice of Appeal-Western Watersheds Project, Center for Biological Diversity, and American Bird Conservancy vs. Bureau of Land Management
On October 31, 2017, Advocates for the West filed an administrative appeal and petition for stay of BLM’s decision to lease priority sage-grouse habitat in central Utah for oil and gas development.
The auctioned parcels are home to the isolated and imperiled Sheeprocks population of greater sage-grouse. The Sheeprocks population experienced a nearly 40 percent decrease over the last four years and saw its male numbers drop from 190 in 2006 to just 23 in 2015. BLM announced in a February press release that the Sheeprocks grouse had suffered a “serious decline” in population that warranted prompt action.
The agency concedes that four of the nine auctioned parcels contain Priority Habitat Management Areas (“PHMA”) for the Sheeprocks population. Oil and gas development in the Sheeprocks area will push this population further toward extirpation.
The appeal, filed on behalf of the American Bird Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, and Western Watersheds Project, asserts that BLM’s decision to lease these parcels violates its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. The leasing action rested on an Environmental Assessment that ignored or downplayed serious harm to sage-grouse, mule deer, and elk. BLM also violated its obligations under the governing resource management plan to prioritize oil and gas leasing outside sage-grouse habitat and to take conservation actions in response to abrupt sage-grouse population declines.