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Following a court order on sage grouse, BLM pulls thousands of acres from oil leasing

Daniel Rothberg
Daniel Rothberg
EnvironmentIndyBlog
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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) pulled hundreds of thousands of acres from potential oil and gas leasing on Friday to comply with a federal District Court ruling earlier this year.

In September, an Idaho judge put a preliminary injunction on the federal land agency, curtailing the Trump administration’s ability to open up oil and gas exploration to areas that coincide with habitat for Greater sage-grouse, an imperiled bird and the latest symbol in the debate between energy development and conservation across the West. As a result of the court order, the BLM in Nevada pulled about 97 percent of the leases it planned to auction in December.

“We’re pleased the BLM is following the judge’s ruling and at least temporarily protecting large swaths of greater sage-grouse habitat,” Taylor McKinnon, the Center for Biological Diversity’s public lands campaigner, said in a statement on Friday.

In January, the BLM, which manages more than 67 percent of Nevada’s land, released a new guidance for deciding whether to open up parcels to oil and gas leasing. Several conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity and Western Watersheds Project, sued the BLM over the new rules, arguing in part that they curtailed public participation requirements.

The judge has yet to rule on the merits of the case, but granted the injunction. The BLM also applied the injunction to oil and gas sales in Colorado, North Dakota, Wyoming and Utah.

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