Sage Grouse Saves the Day: BLM Halts Idaho Oil Lease Auction After Protests from Enviro Groups

(EnviroNews Idaho) — Conservation groups are celebrating a rare win for the environment, animals, and cleaner air as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has called off a proposed oil and gas lease sale set for March near eastern Idaho’s Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge, an important habitat area for the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus).

Arguing the sale violated federal plans to protect the vulnerable bird, conservation groups also stated fracking and drilling is harmful to other wildlife and land use opportunities, which the groups said the BLM failed to take into account when scheduling the sale.

“This is an important victory for Idaho’s imperiled sage grouse and other wildlife threatened by fracking and drilling,” said Michael Saul, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a press release. “Fracking destroys wildlife habitat and pollutes air and water, so halting this sale was the right decision. It’s good to see the Bureau of Land Management acknowledging the risks and uncertainties of turning this land over to the oil industry.”

The questionable value of Idaho’s oil and gas deposits has, thus far, kept development of these resources to a minimum in the state. But on June 28, 2016, Alta Mesa Idaho confirmed that one of its 16 wells was producing crude oil – a first in the Gem State. For now, that won’t be enough for the green light near Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

“We thank the BLM for recognizing that it did not have enough information about greater sage grouse to go forward with oil and gas leasing,” said Kelly Fuller, Energy Campaign Coordinator at Western Watersheds Project. “Since 2008, this area of Idaho has been closed to sage grouse hunting because not enough is known about this small, vulnerable population. If there isn’t enough information to allow hunting, there certainly isn’t enough to allow drilling and fracking.”

Energy development, livestock grazing and invasive grasses that encourage wildfire, have threatened the greater sage grouse and its habitats throughout the West. Obama’s 2015 compromise to keep the sage grouse off the endangered species list is now being changed by the Trump Administration. Still, the greater sage grouse has now played a part in limiting the possible oil and gas development this lease sale would have involved.

A full-feature EnviroNews documentary titled Lions and Tigers and… Sage Grouse? Oh My! explains the majestic bird’s unintended role this way:

At EnviroNews, we’ve often referred to Centrocercus as the “monkeywrencher bird” – not because it threatens to monkeywrench the economy, but because it singlehandedly, by its very existence, has the ability to monkeywrench the exploits of all the aforementioned industries (including oil and gas) – all by way of a listing to the Endangered Species Act.

The successful protests will keep 800 acres out of the hands of oil and gas companies – at least for now. While the Trump Administration has done its best to decrease the amount of land protected as national parks and monuments and roll back Obama-era environmental regulations, it appears one small bird and a lack of due diligence have forced the BLM to pump the brakes. However, the sale has only been postponed until the agency decides to do the proper environmental studies related to the east-central Idaho sage grouse population.

While there is “no way of knowing how long the BLM will take to do its environmental assessment,” according to an email from Western Watersheds Project Executive Director Erik Molvar, it is clear if the leasing process moves forward, “the sage grouse population in this area will be faced with a new and industrial form of disturbance,” which “could cause major problems for a population that may not be in a position to move to other habitats.”

For the moment, Idaho’s greater sage grouse population, and the people who live in the state, can breathe a little easier.

RELATED:

At EnviroNews, we’ve often referred to Centrocercus as the “monkeywrencher bird” – not because it threatens to monkeywrench the economy, but because it singlehandedly, by its very existence, has the ability to monkeywrench the exploits of all the aforementioned industries – all by way of a listing to the Endangered Species Act.

Lions and Tigers and… Sage Grouse? Oh My! – The Granddaddy Endangered Species Battle of Them All

(EnviroNews Nature) – On World Wildlife Day, March 3, 2017, EnviroNews Nature released one of the largest and most expansive documentaries ever published on a wildlife species in peril – the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). The academic yet entertaining film spans a plethora of topics and includes…

(EnviroNews Idaho) – Payette, Idaho – A heated and starkly divided public appeal hearing over a railway transportation facility, a.k.a. “bomb train station,” went down in Payette County Idaho on December 4, 2014. The highlights, EnviroNews Idaho’s in-depth report, and excerpts from the transcript are as follows: Joli…

(EnviroNews Idaho) – Boise – Until recently, Idaho had almost no oil or gas wells and didn’t need a regulatory Oil and Gas Commission, but new rules allowing for the use of fracking and other technology, while outlining key industry practices like waste water disposal and natural gas…

(EnviroNews Colorado) – Special-interest politics – not sound science – decides the fate of species on the brink of extinction in the U.S., according to a new expose’ from the Endangered Species Coalition. The report, Suppressed: How Politics Drowned Out Science for Ten Endangered Species (Suppressed), profiles ten…

(EnviroNews Idaho) – Payette, Idaho – To virtually no one’s surprise, on January 5, 2015, the Payette County Commission voted unanimously to shoot down three congruent appeals heard last month, and to uphold a previous decision by the Payette County Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) to allow a…

(EnviroNews Idaho) – Payette, Idaho – What’s easier than making oil and gas companies follow the law? How about changing the rules? That’s what officials in Payette County, Idaho are attempting after it became apparent current regulations are not being complied with. The oil and gas industry could…

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – Commerce City, Colorado – On Sept. 22, 2015, hand-in-hand with four western-state governors and the Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell handed down what was surely the most anticipated wildlife announcement in United States history. The…

(EnviroNews Nature) – Washington D.C. – On August 4, 2017, Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke published a memorandum calling for the immediate revision of the 2015 Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan. This memo follows up on his June Secretarial Order to review sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) protections…

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) – Washington DC – In a surprising environmentally-friendly move today following the Department of the Interior’s green light for Shell Oil Company’s arctic drilling ambitions yesterday, the Obama Administration came out against a controversial rider in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that…

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – Douglas, Wyoming – In late April a gloomy report was issued by Pew Charitable Trusts that claims there is a 98.7 percent chance greater sage grouse will go extinct in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin in 30 years if the current course continues. The Powder River…

(EnviroNews Nevada) – Reno, Nevada – To the dismay and disappointment of environmentalists, conservationists and biologist alike, Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell announced on April 21, 2015 (which also happened to be Earth Day) that the bi-state sage grouse will not be making its way…

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  1. Sage Grouse Saves the Day: BLM Halts Idaho Oil Lease Auction After Protests from Enviro Groups | No Fricking Fracking - January 30, 2018

    […] (EnviroNews Idaho) — Conservation groups are celebrating a rare win for the environment, animals, and cleaner air as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has called off a proposed oil and gas lease sale set for March near eastern Idaho’s Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge, an important habitat area for the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). […]

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