The Greater Sage-Grouse is an endangered species. More precisely, the species meets all the requirements for classification as an endangered species, but a painfully negotiated, multi-state agreement was made that protects and attempts to recover the Greater Sage-Grouse to avoid the sometimes Draconian consequences of endangered species classification. You can read the history of that compromise plan. And it was a compromise which, by definition, leaves all the parties less than fully satisfied.
Part of that compromise was the agreement of the Department of the Interior – and in particular the biggest federal landowner, the Bureau of Land Management – to keep coal mining and oil and gas leases outside of the remaining priority and additional habitat used by the Greater Sage-Grouse. The idea was to preserve the remaining sagebrush steppe, because the Greater Sage-Grouse is utterly dependent on that habitat.
Ryan Zinke just pissed all over that painfully negotiated, mutually agreed upon plan.
National Audubon has prepared a map showing the areas Zinke intends to offer for oil and gas leases in fiscal year 2018 drawn against the sage-grouse habitat maps.
(It’s tough to read the map at the size WordPress permits; here’s a link to a larger version [PDF].) Note that in Wyoming, BLM managed to schedule 99.9% of its oil and gas leases on lands protected by the compromise plan.
Note too that Ryan Zinke, who is from Montana, “deferred” all oil and gas leases in his home state of Montana.
It’s hard to even be surprised or shocked by Trump Administration actions any longer, but to blow off a multi-state compact like this sets a new mark for callous disregard for the law.
WC hopes that, even as this blog post is written, Advocates for the West or another group of conservation lawyers is preparing a complaint for federal court, seeking an injunction against the leases sales, asking that the Department of Interior be required to follow its agreement or, in the alternative, that the Greater Sage-Grouse be formally declared an endangered species. Sure, that would have drastic effects on the economy of the West, but when the other side won’t abide by its agreement, when the other side puts 99.9% of Wyoming oil and gas leases in Greater Sage-Grouse habitat in violation of its promises, what else can you do?