Ryan Zinke Pisses All Over the Endangered Species Act

Greater Sage Grouse Displaying on Lek

Greater Sage Grouse Displaying on Lek

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.

Map Credit: National Audubon Society

Map Credit: National Audubon Society

(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?


One thought on “Ryan Zinke Pisses All Over the Endangered Species Act

  1. Thanks for this blog. Also the link to the map. Wyoming once “the stronghold” for Greater Sage Grouse is rapidly fading from that crown. Really odd that Zinke would stop the leases in his home state wonder what he has to gain? I disagree with much of what Idaho’s Governors Office has done or not done on Sage Grouse but I have to agree with their objection to BLM ignoring this compromise agreement. Maybe Montana’s Governor or some other power broker buddy of Zinke got to him. Wyoming government has not been as supportive to my knowledge of the agreement as the other states involved. I know that as the map said Idaho’s lease application in priority habitat was withdrawn. It is frustrating to see the “compromise” agreement being ignored. Many of us worked many hours and years on behalf of Sage Grouse over their entire range. Ironically in man, not all, parts of the priority areas in Idaho the efforts of many have resulted in an increase in Sage Grouse populations over the last 10 years. Sad to see Zinke playing politics with my favorite Idaho Sage Steppe health incicator.

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