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Energy and Environment
KUNR Public Radio is a proud partner in the Mountain West News Bureau, a partnership of public media stations that serve Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming. The mission is to tell stories about the people, places and issues of the Mountain West.

Idaho Judge Voids Oil And Gas Leases After BLM Limited Public Input

A close-up image of a sage grouse, a wide, chicken-like bird.
Bureau of Land Management
Hundreds of thousands of acres of oil and gas leases have been vacated by a federal judge, which is good news for the iconic sage grouse.

A federal judge in Idaho has ruled against the Trump administration’s decision to limit public input when leasing the West’s public lands to oil and gas drillers. The decision voids five oil and gas leases in three states.

In January 2018, the Bureau of Land Management released a new policy that reduced the time the public had to comment on oil and gas lease sales.

“Faster and easier lease sales, at the expense of public participation, is not enough” to justify the BLM’s change in policy, U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Ronald E. Bush wrote in his ruling, issued Thursday.

The decision reinstates a 30-day public comment period for such leases, and vacates sales in Nevada, Utah and Wyoming totaling hundreds of thousands of acres.

“The really important thing that that means is that the public will have a greater opportunity to weigh in on future oil and gas lease sales,” said Talasi Brooks, a staff attorney for one of the plaintiffs, the Western Watersheds Project.

Brooks said the other winner is the sage grouse, given the vast acreage leased and now voided.

The ruling is part of a broader lawsuit brought by the Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity to block oil and gas drilling in sage grouse habitat across the American West.

In a statement, the BLM said it’s working to “alleviate or eliminate unnecessary and burdensome regulations.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center For the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

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