Washington, DC — Yesterday’s decision by a federal judge to halt the Interior Department’s plan to dismantle sage grouse protections was good news for the imperiled bird and the 350 other wildlife and plant species that depend on a healthy sagebrush ecosystem. In his ruling, the judge noted that the Trump administration had not examined the environmental consequences or considered reasonable alternatives before it attempted to dismantle the historic 2015 sage grouse protection plans.
“This administration ignored science and common sense when dismantling plans that had been carefully crafted by a bipartisan coalition of Western governors, ranchers and conservationists,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation. “We are hopeful we can now restore balance to our public lands, and work to ensure the sage grouse will have access to healthy habitat for generations to come.”
The immediate effect of the ruling is to put back in place the 2015 plans which banned or limited oil and gas drilling in nearly 11 million acres of sagebrush focal areas.
“We urge the Bureau of Land Management to immediately remove the upcoming December and March oil and gas leases in Colorado that extend into Greater sage-grouse priority habitat management areas that had been closed to leasing under the 2015 plan,” said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. “Recent reports have shown that sage grouse populations have been plummeting across the West. It is very good news that the court has put the brakes on this administration’s wrong-headed energy dominance policies.”
In calling for a temporary injunction, Judge B. Lynn Winmill noted that the administration’s rollback of protections will mean “BLM will be approving oil and gas leases, drilling permits, rights of way for roads; pipelines and power lines; coal and phosphate mining approvals and livestock grazing permit renewals. It is likely that these actions will cause further declines of the sage grouse under the weakened protections.”
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