BLM cancels Utah's November lease sale

BLM cancels Utah's November lease sale

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) canceled its November oil and gas lease sale in Utah this month, the first time in 20 years that a sale in the state has been postponed, reports the Wildlife Management Institute. The cancellation is intended to provide more time for agency review of the potential impacts of these sales on wildlife. It followed receipt of information from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources indicating that 139,000 of the 141,000 acres available for lease were important summer wildlife habitat.

"I'm not aware of us ever having canceled a lease sale specifically for wildlife reasons," stated BLM's Salt Lake City energy team leader, Terry Catlin. "We realized more study was needed."

BLM's leasing process had already been called into question when the U.S. Department of the Interior's Board of Land Appeals (Board) sided with the Center for Native Ecosystems last December and suspended leases on 29,000 acres in the state. According to the internal judicial board, the agency had failed to assess adequately the effects of the leasing on black-footed ferret restoration efforts. It was encouraged to take a harder look at how it assessed the impacts of drilling on wildlife. The Board asked BLM to ensure that proper National Environmental Policy Act reviews of wildlife habitat impacts are done prior to a lease sale.

With increased scrutiny of lease sales by groups throughout the West, the BLM's action could have implications for other states. In particular, reservation about the impact of energy development in northwestern Colorado on important fish and wildlife habitat has spurred local organizations to protest a sale near the town of Parachute. The Colorado Division of Wildlife also has raised concerns about development in the North Park area of Jackson County, citing the importance of the region as mule deer winter range and as a breeding area for sage-grouse.

October 07, 2007