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BLM to pause oil, gas leasing on 2.2 million acres in Colorado

U.S. Bureau of Land Management photo shows a couple of sage grouse in this undated photo. REUTERS/Bob Wick/BLM/Handout

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  • Government agrees to begin with new environmental review
  • Groups claimed a 20-year plan didn’t consider ramifications of climate change, impact to threatened bird

(Reuters) – The Bureau of Land Management will pause coal and oil leasing on 2.2 million acres of Colorado public land after environmental groups alleged its current management plan didn’t consider climate impacts, in accordance with funds.

The agreement was filed Thursday in Colorado federal court and requires the federal government to conduct a fresh environmental analysis of the climate impacts of coal and oil leasing on public lands in southwestern Colorado. The federal government also decided to consider the way the leases may impact the endangered Gunnison sage- grouse and its own habitat.

The Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity among others said within an August 2020 lawsuit that BLM had violated the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the federal government to have a hard consider the environmental impacts of its leasing decisions, when it approved the existing 20-year plan.

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The groups said your choice to permit leasing on these public lands would aggravate the climate crisis and that it will be impossible to handle that impact without completely transforming just how public lands are managed for fossil fuel exploitation.

The groups also said the federal government didn’t adequately think about the impacts leasing could have on the survival and recovery of the threatened Gunnison sage-grouse.

The settlement pauses new leasing in your community referred to as the North Fork Valley. The green groups, represented by Melissa Hornbein of the Western Environmental Law Center, say the program puts the neighborhood culture revolving around family farms, wineries, recreational opportunities and wildlife at an increased risk.

It’s absolutely crazy for the BLM to be turning over a management plan that opens up 95% of the available mineral estate in your community … without really confronting the problem of where we have been in the climate crisis,” Hornbein told Reuters.

A spokesperson for BLM declined to comment.

The Gunnison sage-grouse is really a large bird with a chubby body, small head and an extended tail. It’s among at the very least two threatened birds which have sparked past litigation in the American West over coal and oil development. Earlier cases where conservation groups have charged that leasing puts the birds at an increased risk have resulted in notable legal victories for conservation groups, including halts to mining and drilling in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

The case is Citizens for a wholesome Community et al. v. USA Bureau of Land Management et al., U.S. District Court, District of Colorado, No. 1: 20-cv-02484.

For environmentally friendly groups: Edward Breckenridge Zukoski of the guts for Biological Diversity and Kyle Tisdel and Melissa Hornbein of the Western Environmental Law Center

For BLM: Luther Hajek and Rickey Turner of the U.S. Department of Justice

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Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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