A draft revision of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) plans to change Obama-era sage grouse protections in Wyoming surfaced this week, even though they won’t be officially released until next month or so. The revised plan would potentially allow energy development in areas considered the bird’s best habitat, especially mature sage brush lands.
National Audubon Society Vice President Brian Rutledge said if the revisions are adopted, thousands of wells could move into their core habitat, potentially leading to a listing of the species as endangered.
Rutledge said, right now, he feels that sage grouse protections are still safe because Governor Matt Mead is committed to Wyoming’s core area strategy. But he’s not sure what the next election will bring.
“I think it’s very important that whoever takes over the helm recognizes that Wyoming’s plan is a Wyoming plan,” said Rutledge. “In fact, many of the other states have based their basal work on what was done in Wyoming. So turning on this as if it was some federal imposition would be a gross error.”
He said the bureau claims this would give state’s stronger control over the bird’s management but Rutledge said, the state already has that. He said, in fact, this plan could burden the state.
“You know, we’ve got places where we’re looking at 8,500 wells. And to have each application reviewed under these new rules individually will be overwhelming for anyone, including the state,” he said. “So we need to be really careful that we go into the plan by which it’s manageable.”
The new plan could also make approving well applications easier for the energy industry and Rutledge said this could eliminate public input.