The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is moving forward with several oil and gas lease sales. The agency is putting up nearly 400,000 acres of public land for sale in three western states: New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The 30-day protest period began in Wyoming on January 30. The lease sale will occur March 19 through March 20.
Environmental advocates say the March lease sales should have been postponed, arguing the recent government shutdown limited time to review public comments, which ended mid-December. In Wyoming, the shutdown gave the agency only eight days to fully review them before signing off on parcels.
Julia Stuble, the Wyoming Public Lands & Energy Associate for the Wilderness Society, said it's a violation of the public process.
"If the agency thinks they can take thousands of comments, and in less than a week read through them all, check with the points that were raised, I would be really surprised," she said.
A BLM Wyoming representative said it had enough time to review the comments.
"Our leasing team proactively completed much of the work to prepare for the March sale before the shutdown, and some exempted employees worked during the shutdown to address comments using available cost recovery and prior year funds," Courtney Whitman said.
Stuble said the available crew likely did not include wildlife or archeological specialists to do a full review of the parcels. Of 146 parcels initially offered, six were deferred due to overlap with the Red Desert to Hoback migration corridor. During the lengthy 2013 government shutdown, lease sales were postponed.