BLM yanks 149,000 acres out of oil and gas lease sale in Colorado

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s concerns about oil  and gas drilling on the greater sage grouse have prompted the Colorado Bureau of Land Management to remove nearly 149,000 acres from a December sale of federal oil and gas leases.

The BLM announced it would remove 142 parcels totaling 148,797 acres that are in the greater sage grouse habitat. The move will leave only about 75,500 acres of public lands for lease and most of them are in western Colorado.

The sale is rescheduled to Dec. 13 according to the Denver Post.

“This decision is based on input from the state of Colorado,” BLM spokesman Steven Hall said.

Thee decision followed letters sent by Gov. Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet to the Colorado BLM in September where they asked the agency to postpone the sale of the land for lease. Both expressed worries that the drilling would have a negative impact on the habitat of wildlife including the sage grouse. There were also concerns by area residents about the sale of oil and gas leases on 2,380 acres of public land in the North Fork Valley of southwestern Colorado.

A big question hanging over the leasing of public lands in Colorado and across the West is a ruling by a federal judge in Idaho that said the public should have more say about upcoming oil and gas lease sales in greater sage grouse habitat. In September, Chief U.S. Magistrate Ronald Bush in Pocatello, Idaho, issued a preliminary injunction that temporarily replaces part of the Trump administration’s policy on the leasing of public lands with one by the Obama administration that gives the public more time to comment on and protest federal oil and gas leases.

The lands singled out in Bush’s ruling are encompassed in state and federal plans aimed at conserving greater sage grouse, whose numbers have been declining for decades.The ruling came in a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project, which claims the Bureau of Land Management violated federal laws when it revised leasing polices earlier this year.