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Endangered Species Bottleneck Continues

July 29, 2004
WildEarth Guardians
In This Release
Santa Fe, NM – Jan. 19. WildEarth Guardians, Chihuahuan Desert Conservation Alliance, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, and Navajo ethnobotanist Donna House challenged leasing by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on 23,818 acres in New Mexico and western Oklahoma, citing concerns about impacts to cultural values, roadless areas, and habitats of four endangered species. About 34,000 acres are expected to be offered for lease by the BLM in a sale today.

The roadless areas that will be impacted by this lease sale are in the Guadalupe Mountains in southeastern New Mexico: Rawhide Canyon and Dunnaway Citizens Wilderness Proposal areas. In northwest New Mexico, the Torrejon Fossil Fauna Area of Critical Concern will also be impacted by leasing today.

Endangered species impacted include the aplomado falcon, listed under the Endangered Species Act as endangered, and the lesser prairie chicken and sand dune lizard, both highly imperiled wildlife that are candidates awaiting Endangered Species Act protection. Approximately 13,000 acres of aplomado falcon habitat is proposed for lease, as are 3,500 acres of lesser prairie chicken habitat. Two parcels totaling 320 acres offered for sale are within sand dune lizard habitat. This lizard is so critically endangered that scientists have recommended that no oil and gas activities be allowed in areas suitable for the lizard.

Eleven parcels known to contain important Native American cultural sites, located east of Chaco Culture National Historic Park, are also being offered for oil and gas lease by BLM today. These parcels total over 9,000 acres.

“The Bureau of Land Management continues to open public lands to harmful drilling without regard to the important cultural and natural values on those lands,” stated Dr. Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians. Rosmarino continued, “BLM is signing away valuable endangered species habitats which cannot be restored once destroyed by drilling.”

The Bush Energy Plan emphasizes escalating extraction of fossil fuels, and the BLM’s leasing program’s fast-pace is coupled with swift approvals of drilling proposals. In its leasing program, BLM has continually refused to do full environmental analysis mandated by federal laws including the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. Since April 2001, nearly 550,000 acres have been leased by the BLM for drilling in NM, and 34,000 additional acres will be offered at today’s sale. Since October 2003, WildEarth Guardians has challenged leasing on approximately 210,000 acres. Once leases are issued, BLM maintains that it has little authority to deny drilling proposals. Throughout the West, the BLM has escalated the rate of drilling approvals, with 6,000 approvals estimated for 2004, versus 2003’s tally of 4,000.