This week, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced it would hold off on auctioning hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands for fracking in Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming.
That’s good news, particularly for the imperiled sage grouse, but it doesn’t leave our public lands in the clear.
Under the Bureau of Land Management’s announcements, nearly 150,000 acres in Colorado, more than 50,000 acres in Montana, more than 790,000 acres in Wyoming, and more than 150,000 acres in Utah would be deferred from sale to the oil and gas industry in December.
That ruling held the Bureau of Land Management illegally changed its policies for reviewing the sale of public lands to the oil and gas industry, violating public process and environmental review requirements. The court enjoined the agency’s policy changes, directing more rigorous environmental review and more robust opportunities for public comment.
Unfortunately, while the federal court found the Bureau of Land Management’s new policy to be illegal, the court only blocked its implementation on lands within the current range of the greater sage grouse.
For areas outside of current greater sage grouse habitat, public lands are still on the auction block. That’s bad news.
That’s because while greater sage grouse habitat is currently extensive in the American West, it’s not absolute. A number of areas, including New Mexico, southern and eastern Colorado, many areas of eastern and southern Montana, and even areas of western and central Utah don’t currently support sage grouse habitat.
In total, while 1.1 million acres are being deferred from the auction block, another 780,000 acres remain in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.
In New Mexico, this means the Greater Chaco region remains under siege by the oil and gas industry.
It’s great the sage grouse is getting a reprieve, but our public lands are still in the crosshairs of the Trump Administration.