The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Wyoming will delay nearly all of the acreage that had been proposed for a December oil and gas lease sale. Those 790,000 acres intersect with sage grouse habitat. The BLM opted to remove the parcels after a court disputed the agency’s decision to truncate a public comment period earlier this year. When the court placed a preliminary injunction requiring a full input period, the BLM dropped sage grouse habitat lands from its proposed lease sale.
Western Watersheds Project was one of the plaintiffs in the case. Kelly Fuller, the organization's energy and mining campaign director, said she’s relieved the sage grouse lands were put off, but she’s not sure the court’s decision will stick.
"We are concerned that BLM wants to still lease this land that it just removed; just going to do it in the future,” she said.
While the preliminary injunction is in place, a final ruling by the court is still pending. BLM Wyoming said in its announcement that the delayed parcels will be analyzed and expected to be a part of a supplemental sale in February. A full 30-day comment period would occur then.
Fuller said it’s critical to give citizens the full amount of comment and protest time, especially when it comes to developing on sensitive habitat.
"That’s the way the public’s voice can be heard. We have federal laws in this country that say when the federal government is making a decision that’s going to affect the environment, the public has to be told about it,” she said.
Fuller said similar decisions were made by BLM offices in Montana, North Dakota, and Colorado. In Wyoming, only 720 acres will be up for bid in December.