Current work in wildlife, rivers, public lands, and climate
Court order forces Trump administration to pull sage-grouse habitat from Nevada oil auction
“BLM is doing the right thing by taking sensitive sage-grouse habitats off the auction block and preventing fossil fuel development in these areas,” said Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist and executive director with Western Watersheds Project. “If we want to recover sage-grouse, we need to keep Nevada’s public lands free of the industrial-scale drilling that already occurs in Wyoming and Utah.”
The acreage in Nevada’s Ely Field Office roughly corresponds with key habitats designated for elevated sage-grouse conservation in a federal sage-grouse plan completed for Nevada and northeastern California in 2015. That plan specified that BLM must prioritize oil and gas leasing and drilling projects outside designated sage-grouse habitats.
“If you want to preserve sage-grouse habitat and stop climate disruption, the best solution is keeping publicly-owned fossil fuels in the ground,” said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “Oil and gas development spiderwebs the land with roads, pipelines, and wellsites, which, together with noise and heavy truck traffic, pushes sage-grouse out of their habitat.”
Despite minimal industry interest in drilling, the Trump administration has fueled a speculative frenzy by leasing hundreds of thousands of acres of sensitive public in Nevada, including high-priority habitats for the imperiled sage-grouse. Federal oil and gas leases are frequently offered at a minimum bid of $2 an acre.
“The BLM’s partial reprieve for this beautiful, imperiled bird is a good first step,” said Patrick Donnelly, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Nevada state director. “But this leasing frenzy needs to stop. Leasing Nevada’s public lands out for oil and gas threatens the survival of greater sage-grouse, as well as our scarce groundwater and our chance at a livable climate.”
Among the areas taken off the auction block are lands at the head of the Ruby Valley and the neighboring Maverick Mountains, in the Egan Range and neighboring Steptoe Valley, in the headwaters of Spring Valley, and in Jakes Valley. These lands are the traditional homeland of the Shoshone and Paiute peoples.
 See https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/projects/nepa/124362/20005074/250005947/!DOI-BLM-NV-L000-2019-0004-EA_20191003_Final.pdf at p. 57 for a map of lease parcels intersecting with designated sage-grouse habitats.