The Force of the Horse

VICTORY! Judge Voids Nearly 1 Million Acres of Lease Sales in Sage-Grouse Habitat; Restores Public Involvement in Leasing

Advocates for the West won a significant victory yesterday when a federal judge overturned the Federal Government’s policy which curtailed public participation in oil and gas leasing decisions.

The court also granted Advocates for the West‘s request to void lease sales covering nearly 1 million acres of public lands — roughly a quarter of all acres leased by the Federal Governnment in the lower 48 — because the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) failed to allow public participation required by law.

“The ruling is a major rebuke to the Fed’s energy dominance agenda, and a reminder of the public’s right to meaningful input in public lands decision making,” said Staff Attorney Sarah Stellberg.

Today’s ruling is part of a broader lawsuit, filed on behalf of Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity, challenging BLM’s expansive oil and gas leasing across greater sage-grouse habitat. The Interior Department has sharply increased leasing in the bird’s priority habitat, despite its mandate to prioritize leasing elsewhere.

Recent population estimates from multiple state wildlife agencies show that grouse populations are plummeting. Today’s victory is a critical step toward ensuring that sage-grouse and their habitats are protected.

This win comes on the heels of our recent preliminary injunction blocking the Department of the Interior’s rollbacks to the 2015 sage-grouse conservation plans. 



Washington Post

Judge voids nearly 1 million acres of oil and gas leases, saying Trump policy undercut public input

By Juliet Eilperin – 2/28/2020

A federal judge in Idaho ruled Thursday that a Trump administration policy limiting public input on oil and gas leasing decisions was “arbitrary and capricious,” overturning the 2018 directive and voiding nearly 1 million acres of leases out West… (continue reading)

New York Times

Judge Cancels Oil and Gas Leases on Some Sage Grouse Lands

Associated Press – 2/28/2020

A federal judge has cancelled more than $125 million in oil and gas leases on public lands that are home to the declining bird species greater sage grouse… (continue reading)

Judge Vacates Directive Over Energy Lease Public Comments

Associated Press – 2/28/2020

A judge in Idaho has overturned a federal directive to curtail environmental review and eliminate mandatory public comment periods concerning oil and gas leasing on some public lands… (continue reading)

Courthouse News

Judge Puts Kibosh on Oil & Gas Leases in Idaho Sage Grouse Country

By Carson McCullough – 2/28/2020

A federal judge ruled Thursday that the Trump administration overstepped its authority in trying to expedite oil and gas development in sage grouse habitat…. (continue reading)

US News

Judge Cancels Oil and Gas Leases on Some Sage Grouse Lands

Associated Press – 2/28/2020

A federal judge has cancelled more than $125 million in oil and gas leases on public lands that are home to the declining bird species greater sage grouse, in a ruling that said the Trump administration illegally curtailed public comment… (continue reading)

Denver Post

Judge cancels oil and gas leases on some sage grouse lands in Nevada, Utah and Wyoming

Associated Press – 2/28/2020

A federal judge has cancelled more than $125 million in oil and gas leases on public lands that are home to the declining bird species greater sage grouse… (continue reading)

9 replies »

  1. Next up: how to get loss-leading grazing leases voided in our last legal wild horse and burro areas. This does set a precedent. Wild horses and burros are in fact declining (see recent roundups with hundreds of adults and next to no foals), their habitat is leased out to competing for-profit interests which take primacy in forage and water access (against the law and further detrimental to federally protected wild horses and burros), and all the cost burdens are foisted onto an unwilling taxpaying public.

    At an absolute minimum no livestock should be allowed to graze legal wild horse and burro areas — which constitute only around 12% of all the public land upon which livestock grazing leases are allowed. This is a reasonable and fiscally sound direction to take both the wild horse and burro program and the livestock grazing program. Let’s do it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • The law supports what you say: legal reduction of private/corporate domestic livestock grazing pursuant to 3 C.F.R. 4710.3-2 and 43 C.F.R. 4710.5(a), in order to accommodate the current wild horse population level. The USFS authority to reduce livestock grazing pursuant to 43 C.F.R. 4710.5 in order “to provide habitat for wild horses or burros.”


      • So why isn’t this happening? Why can’t anyone in Congress grow a spine? Again, I think we need to ask these questions specific to our wild horses and burros of EVERYONE running for office this year, and vote them out if they dodge or waffle on answering. The stakes are too hight and the time is too short now. They need to speak up or stand down.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Bernhardt Aims to Give Oil Industry Free Pass to Kill Birds
    January 30, 2020

    Statement of Alan Zibel, Research Director, Public Citizen’s Corporate Presidency Project

    WASHINGTON Note: The New York Times reported today that the U.S. Department of the Interior is expected to release a draft rule dropping the threat of punishment to energy companies that break a law protecting migratory birds. The expected proposal will give leeway to corporations to kill birds as long as they do so unintentionally. A former client of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, the Independent Petroleum Producers Association, specifically requested this action in a September 2017 letter to former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

    When powerful corporate interests tell the Department of Interior to jump, officials there routinely ask “how high?” This particular giveaway is a direct request of a former client of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and proves once again that the Trump administration is intent on attacking conservation laws in every way possible.

    If this rule had been in place at the time of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, which killed more than one million birds, BP would not have had to pay $100 million in fines for violating federal laws that protect birds. Bernhardt has no interest in holding big energy companies accountable.


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