Wyoming: Sage Grouse Habitat Prevents Fossil Fuel Leases

Wyoming: Sage Grouse Habitat Prevents Fossil Fuel Leases

Written by on November 15, 2021

The federal government is no longer preventing Wyoming from moving forward with oil and gas lease sales next year – but sage grouse are, at least partially.

B.L.M. Wyoming announced that they are moving forward with oil and gas lease sales during the first quarter of 2022. But the acreage being offered for lease is significantly less than what was initially proposed.

During a scoping period, four hundred fifty-nine parcels of B.L.M. land were proposed for March and June 2021 oil and gas lease sales. But after receiving input and a subsequent environmental review, that acreage was reduced.

The Bureau of Land Management Wyoming State Office plans to offer 195 parcels – totaling about 179,001 acres – in early 2022.

The reason for the reduction is habitat. Specifically, sage grouse habitat.

Of the 459 parcels initially proposed, 260 parcels – 382,882 acres – were in Priority Habitat Management Areas for greater sage grouse. According to the U.S. Geological Survey and Wyoming Game and Fish studies, sage grouse habitat is being lost, and populations are getting lower.

Sage grouse declines are partly due to cyclical population trends. But climate change and development are reducing the health of sage environments. Without healthy sage, there can be no healthy sage grouse populations. Concerns for sage grouse populations are what led Idaho U.S. District Judge Ronald E. Bush to defer drilling in June 2021.

“The B.L.M. meticulously reviews the proposed parcels to determine that leasing each of them will conform to all applicable policies and land use plans. All parcels will include appropriate protections and stipulations, such as seasonal timing limitations and controlled surface use to protect sage-grouse habitat and other important natural resources.”

A 30-day public comment period on the lease sale’s environmental assessment is open until Nov. 30. The B.L.M. will review and consider all input it receives before reaching a final decision, but specific comments addressing distinct parcels or resource concerns are the most helpful.

Wyoming is one of the country’s top energy producers on public lands.

In 2018, B.L.M. Wyoming raised nearly $117 million through oil and gas lease sales. About half the revenue from each lease sale goes directly to the State of Wyoming and, when leasing results in production, the state also receives about half the resulting royalties.

Revenue from leasing and development in Wyoming funds the U.S. Treasury. Those funds are also allocated to important local priorities: public education, infrastructure, and other state and local priorities.

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