ELY, Nevada― The Bureau of Land Management has pulled 332,247 acres from a Nov. 12 oil and gas lease auction in western Nevada in response to a court order blocking Trump administration plans that gutted protections for greater sage grouse.
“Taking sensitive sage-grouse habitats off the auction block is the right thing for the BLM to do, because public lands that aren’t leased for fossil fuel extraction don’t suffer from future industrial impacts,” said Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist and executive director with Western Watersheds Project. “Nevada doesn’t presently have the heavily industrialized sage-grouse habitats that you see in Wyoming and Utah, and if we want to recover the sage grouse, it’s important to keep them undeveloped.”
The acreage in Nevada’s Ely Field Office roughly corresponds to key areas designated for elevated sage-grouse conservation in a federal sage-grouse plan completed for Nevada and northeastern California in 2015. That plan specified that BLM must prioritize oil and gas leasing and drilling projects outside designated sage-grouse habitats.
“If you want to preserve sage-grouse habitat and stop climate disruption, the best solution is keeping publicly-owned fossil fuels in the ground,” said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “Oil and gas development spiderwebs the land with roads, pipelines, and wellsites, which, together with noise and heavy truck traffic, pushes sage-grouse out of their habitat.”
Despite minimal industry interest in drilling, the Trump administration has fueled a speculative frenzy by leasing hundreds of thousands of acres of sensitive public land in Nevada, including high-priority habitats for the imperiled greater sage grouse. The leases are frequently offered at the minimum bid of $2 an acre.
“The BLM’s partial reprieve for this beautiful, imperiled bird is a good first step,” said Patrick Donnelly, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Nevada state director. “But this leasing frenzy needs to stop. Leasing Nevada’s public lands out for oil and gas threatens the survival of greater sage-grouse, as well as our scarce groundwater and our chance at a livable climate.”
Among the areas taken off the auction block are lands at the head of the Ruby Valley and the neighboring Maverick Mountains, in the Egan Range and neighboring Steptoe Valley, in the headwaters of Spring Valley and in Jakes Valley. These lands are the traditional homeland of the Shoshone and Paiute peoples.