For Immediate Release, February 10, 2020

Contact:

Kelly Fuller, Western Watersheds Project, (928) 322-8449, kfuller@westernwatersheds.org
Michael Saul, Center for Biological Diversity, (303) 915-8308, msaul@biologicaldiversity.org

Trump Administration’s Nevada Lease Sale for Oil and Gas on Public Lands Violates Court Order

RENO, Nev.― The Trump administration is violating a judge’s order requiring a 30-day protest period before public lands in sage-grouse habitat are leased out for oil and gas extraction.

The Bureau of Land Management on Friday announced a 74,000-acre lease sale that includes important seasonal habitat for rare greater sage grouse — habitat designated by the BLM in central Nevada’s Hot Creek Valley. But the agency allowed the public just 10 days to file a formal protest. In 2018 a federal court in Idaho required the BLM to hold 30-day protest periods for lease sales in greater sage-grouse habitat.

“The September 2018 preliminary injunction blocked the Trump administration’s plans to shorten public review periods for oil and gas leasing sales on public lands in sage-grouse habitat,” said Kelly Fuller, energy and mining campaign director at Western Watersheds Project. “The court recognized that shorter timelines meant less effective public participation and that this intention was unlawful. Nevada’s BLM should cancel the sale or extend the protest period to the full 30 days.”

All 45 Nevada lease parcels scheduled for auction March 24 are within the BLM’s 2015 greater sage-grouse planning area, and multiple parcels in the Hot Creek Valley include BLM-designated areas with seasonal and connectivity habitat for the birds. These areas are particularly important in Nevada, where sage-grouse populations are down approximately 33% since 2016.

“The Trump administration is showing blatant disregard for the law along with its callous attitude toward rare and vanishing wildlife,” said Michael Saul, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “On top of giving away our public lands to polluting industries, now it’s defying a federal judge to do so. We won’t allow Trump’s BLM to push this spectacular bird further down the path to extinction.”

Conservation groups sued to block a 2018 Trump administration policy that directed BLM field offices to accelerate oil and gas leasing on public lands, in part by curtailing environmental review and eliminating mandatory public comment periods. In halting implementation of that policy, the judge wrote that the BLM “made an intentional decision to limit the opportunity for (and even in some circumstances to preclude entirely) any contemporaneous public involvement in decisions concerning whether to grant oil and gas leases on federal lands.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Western Watersheds Project protects and restores western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives, and legal advocacy.

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