Latest Lawsuit Doesn’t Just Confront Trump Administration’s Climate Denial, it Seeks to Defend Imperiled Landscapes

Pawnee Buttes on the Pawnee National Grassland of northeastern Colorado.

Although WildEarth Guardians’ latest lawsuit over fracking on public lands is about confronting the climate crisis, it’s also about defending our irreplaceable and iconic American lands from oil and gas extraction.

Given this, we thought we’d share a few images and background on the public lands implicated in our latest lawsuit. Click here to see the full map of the areas involved in our case >>

Each of these landscapes is threatened by the Trump Administration and their attempts to sell out American lands to oil and gas companies. If we win our case, these lands will gain a major reprieve from industrialization.

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Pawnee National Grassland, Colorado

Our latest lawsuit to block fracking on public lands includes several tracts  in the Pawnee National Grassland. This map shows the location of lands within the Pawnee that were sold by the Bureau of Land Management for fracking (in red).

Our case involves several tracts of land in the Pawnee National Grassland of northeast Colorado, home to the iconic Pawnee Buttes. The Grassland itself is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, but the minerals underneath are managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

We’ve been working for years to defend the Pawnee from fracking. With our latest lawsuit, we’re taking a stand for this often overlooked, yet unmatched high plains landscape.

Red Desert, Wyoming

Whitehorse Creek Wilderness Study Area in Wyoming’s Red Desert.

The Red Desert of southwestern Wyoming is an amazingly wild landscape and contains the highest concentration of Bureau of Land Management-designated Wilderness Study Areas in all of the American West. Located just south of the Wind River Range, the region sustains a desert elk herd, migratory pronghorn, deer, and many other wildlife species.

In the last three years, the Trump Administration has effectively liquidated the Red Desert to the oil and gas industry, auctioning off hundreds of thousands of acres for fracking. Our lawsuit aims to overturn these sales and safeguard the Red Desert.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Rattlesnake Springs Unit of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The Trump Administration has sold lands for fracking on the doorstep of this Unit.

Fracking has boomed recently in the Greater Carlsbad region of southeast New Mexico, tied to the broader explosion in oil and gas production in the Permian Basin. At the doorstep of this boom is Carlsbad Caverns National Park, which is world-renowned not just for its extensive underground cave system, but its stunning above-ground natural beauty.

Oil and gas extraction in the region not only threatens the cave systems of Carlsbad Caverns, but is fueling dangerous air pollution and threatening water contamination. Our lawsuit targets the sale of more than 55,000 acres of public lands for fracking in the Greater Carlsbad region.

Tongue River Valley, Montana

Tongue River in southeast Montana.

Southeast Montana’s Tongue River Valley is relatively frack-free at the moment. Its remote rolling hills, pine breaks, and the thriving Tongue River have experienced little oil and gas extraction over the years.

Sadly, that might change. As the Trump Administration has sold thousands of acres of public lands for fracking in this region in recent years, it’s clear the oil and gas industry is looking for a new play and a new opportunity to profit from the exploitation of American lands.

Our lawsuit seeks to overturn the sale of thousands of acres of lands for fracking in the Tongue River Valley and to defend the region from fossil fuel industrialization.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park. Photo by Ken Lund.

Not more than 20 miles away from Bryce Canyon National Park, the Trump Administration offered thousands of acres of public lands for fracking in Utah. Oil and gas extraction these lands stands to fuel air pollution in the Park and industrialize this otherwise undeveloped landscape.

Our case challenges the proposal to sell public lands near Bryce Canyon for fracking and to keep the greater Bryce Canyon area frack-free.

Powder River Basin, Wyoming

Pronghorn on the Thunder Basin National Grassland, located in the Powder River Basin of northeastern Wyoming.

The Powder River Basin of northeast Wyoming is undergoing an intense fracking boom and the sale of public lands is enabling unbridled oil and gas extraction. Located east of the Bighorn Mountains and west of the Black Hills of South Dakota, this vast region is a unique expanse of untouched high prairie.

The Powder River Basin contains both the Thunder Basin National Grassland and a checkerboard of lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. While these lands have remained relatively undeveloped over the years, the latest fracking boom stands to transform them into industrial sacrifice zones.

Our case targets the sale of hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands for fracking in the Powder River Basin.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Chief Mountain on the Blackfeet Reservation east of Glacier National Park. Photo by Ken Lund.

The Trump Administration is even selling public lands for fracking on the doorstep of Montana’s Glacier National Park and right next to the Blackfeet Tribe’s Reservation.  Over the last three years, thousands of acres of public lands have been sold for fracking in Glacier and Toole Counties, both gateways to the greater Glacier National Park region.

The sale of public lands for fracking east of Glacier National Park is doubly injurious and insulting given that the climate crisis is destroying the Park’s iconic glaciers.

Our case challenges the sale of public lands near Glacier and hopefully will help defend the Park from future climate destruction.

North Park, Colorado

North Park in northern Colorado.

Colorado’s North Park is nestled between the Park Range on the west and the Never Summer Mountains to the east, a high mountain valley that is incredibly rural and wild. At its core is the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge, which supports thriving populations of sage grouse, waterfowl, and other wildlife.  The region even attracts a wolf every now and then.

Sadly, this region has been devastatingly exploited for oil and gas in recent years. Companies have fracked for oil and simply flare gas as waste. It’s the worst example of how the oil and gas industry uses public lands to subsidize wasteful production and marginal development.

Our lawsuit targets the sale of public lands for fracking in the headwaters of North Park and the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Absaroka Mountains in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by National Park Service.

Even America’s iconic Yellowstone National Park is at risk from the Trump Administration’s sale of public lands for fracking. The Administration has sold thousands of acres of public lands to the oil and gas industry within 30 miles of this most iconic Park, mostly near the town of Cody, Wyoming.

The Greater Yellowstone region is a wilderness gem in the lower 48 United States, supporting an immense diversity of fish and wildlife. Fracking near the Park threatens to impact wildlife, air quality, and the integrity of this natural landscape.

Our lawsuit challenges the sale of thousands of acres of public lands for fracking in close proximity to Yellowstone.

While we’re working hard to confront the climate crisis, it’s important to remember that ultimately, this is about protecting America’s public lands.

Jeremy Nichols

About the Author

Jeremy Nichols | Climate and Energy Program Director, WildEarth Guardians

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