In Sage Grouse Country, Governors Balk At Latest Trump Deregulation

Aug 15, 2018

Credit Julio Mulero

Governors around the West are expressing alarm over a new Trump administration directive that lifts a rule requiring energy companies to pay for any damage they leave behind, especially in sage grouse habitat. It’s a tool long used to keep species off the endangered species list.

National Audubon Society Vice President Brian Rutledge said lifting the so-called "compensatory mitigation rule" undermines the very mission of the Bureau of Land Management to protect public lands for multiple uses, such as recreation, grazing and hunting.

“We expect to maintain our great national heritage of land, to maintain it, protect it and keep it in the state that it is best serving us,” Rutledge said. “Instead it's saying, oil and gas do your damage. We’ll eat the cost.”

Governor Matt Mead’s policy advisor Mike McGrady said, it’s true that the rule was a useful tool, but that Wyoming used it very rarely, nine times in the last two years. And, he said, unlike other states, Wyoming will still be able to enforce it.

“Wyoming is in a very different situation from many of the other states in the range of the species,” said McGrady. “We have the legal authority and we also are in a position to permit the same projects as the federal government does. So we’re a dual permitting state.”

He said that’s because Wyoming adopted statutes early that make collaborating with the federal government easier. For other states to adopt such statutes now would be time-consuming.

“While we in Wyoming think we can continue to apply our program we have concerns about the other states and a potential inability to do something similar.”

McGrady said, Wyoming is concerned because if other states lose too much habitat, the sage grouse may end up on the endangered species list after all. He said the governor’s office is currently in dialogue with the Interior Department and other Western states to figure out a solution.