WildEarth Guardians

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Fighting the Public Lands Sell-Off to the Oil and Gas Industry

WildEarth Guardians et al. v. Bernhardt et al.
Won, Settled
Case No.
Date Filed
January 9, 2021
State, Venue
District of Columbia, Federal District Court for the District of Columbia
Samantha Ruscavage-Barz & Daniel Timmons (Guardians), Kyle Tisdel & Shiloh Hernadez (Western Environmental Law Center)
In response to a trio of related lawsuits filed by WildEarth Guardians and its allies, the Biden administration will review and reconsider decisions to sell nearly 4 million acres of public lands oil and gas leases as part of three settlement agreements upheld by a federal judge in June 2022.

Following up on Guardians’ prior legal wins, which successfully held the Bureau of Land Management accountable for the climate impacts of its oil and gas leasing decisions, Guardians challenged the agency’s approval of more than 2,000 oil and gas leases encompassing almost two million acres of public lands across five western states—Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The leases were sold as part of 23 separate lease sales between 2016 and 2019.

Prior to briefing, however, BLM – in apparent recognition of the agency’s legal vulnerability – sought voluntary remand of the vast majority of the challenged leases. BLM and Guardians successfully negotiated settlement of Guardians’ challenge with respect to the remaining leases. In accordance with the Court’s order on remand and the settlement agreement, BLM is currently conducting supplemental review of the climate impacts of the remanded oil and gas leases under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), analysis which would not have occurred absent Guardians’ lawsuit.

Guardians’ challenge to the remaining lease sales continues at the district court, and the organization is committed to ensuring that BLM takes its obligations on remand seriously.