Bureau of Land Management to suspend oil and gas leasing on 2.2 million acres in Colorado

(Reuters) – The Bureau of Land Management will suspend oil and gas leasing on 2.2 million acres of Colorado’s public land after environmental groups alleged its current management plan failed to take climate impacts into account , according to a regulation.

The agreement was filed Thursday in Colorado federal court and requires the government to conduct a new environmental analysis of the climate impacts of leasing oil and gas on public lands in southwestern Colorado. The government has also agreed to consider how the leases might impact the endangered sage-grouse and its habitat.

The Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and others said in an August 2020 lawsuit that BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the government to closely examine the environmental impacts of its leasing decisions, when it approved the current 20 year plan.

The groups said the decision to allow these public lands to be leased would worsen the climate crisis and that it would be “impossible” to address this impact without “completely transforming the way public lands are managed for exploitation. fossil fuels”.

The groups also said the government had not sufficiently considered the impacts the rental would have on the survival and recovery of the endangered Gunnison sage-grouse.

The settlement suspends all new rentals in the area known as the North Fork Valley. Green groups, represented by Melissa Hornbein of the Western Environmental Law Center, say the plan puts local culture at risk around family farms, vineyards, recreational opportunities and wildlife.

“It’s absolutely crazy for the BLM to be looking at a management plan that opens up 95% of the available mining domain in the region… without really asking the question of where we are in the climate crisis,” Hornbein told Reuters.

A BLM spokesperson declined to comment.

The Gunnison Sage-Grouse is a large bird with a chubby body, small head and long tail. It is one of at least two endangered birds that have sparked litigation in the American West over oil and gas development. Previous cases in which conservation groups have charged that leasing endangers birds have led to notable legal victories for conservation groups, including halting mining and drilling in Wyoming, the Montana and Idaho.

The case is Citizens for a Healthy Community et al. v. United States Bureau of Land Management et al., US District Court, District of Colorado, No. 1:20-cv-02484.

For environmental groups: Edward Breckenridge Zukoski of the Center for Biological Diversity and Kyle Tisdel and Melissa Hornbein of the Western Environmental Law Center

For BLM: Luther Hajek and Rickey Turner of the US Department of Justice

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.