For everyone who cares about our public lands, we have good news: A federal judge banned oil and gas leases on nearly one million acres of public lands that are important habitat for the greater sage grouse, the largest type of grouse (type of bird) in the US.
The ruling goes against a White House policy that shortened the period for public comment and protest on oil and gas leases from 30 days to 10. This change was contested through a lawsuit, which eventually lead to US Chief Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush to toss out around $125 million worth of leases issued under the new policy, while also restoring the full 30-day comment period.
In his decision, Bush argued that Bureau of Land Management could not only consider the economic needs of fossil fuel industries at the expense of all other concerns. The sage grouse, whose numbers have fallen from around 16 million to fewer than 500,000 because of disease and development, reflects the overall health of the Western sagebrush habitat that also houses hundreds of other species. In other words, it’s essential we preserve these lands from the prying hands of oil and gas companies.