Weekly News Roundup

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Biggest news this week: Sage-grouse conservation and energy development can exist out west. Yesterday, we put out a new report authored by Western EcoSystems Technology (WEST) detailing the overlap between priority sage-grouse habitat areas for conservation and prime oil and gas areas in the sagebrush steppe. Spoiler alert: the amount of overlap between the two is very little, enough to be insignificant. The report found that 73-81% of medium-to-high potential energy development areas fall completely outside of priority sage-grouse habitat. That’s great news for stakeholders working to balance conservation with energy development in the West.

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What does that really mean, though? Overall, this is good news—it means that oil and gas production, a key component of the western economy, can co-exist with the conservation of habitat important to the grouse. But it also means that it’s time for the BLM, western states, and other stakeholders to act on sage-grouse conservation now, in order to prevent a listing.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Nope, it’s a methane hotspot: Right over the four corners region of the southwest, above the San Juan Basin. A study by scientists in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory found the largest concentration of methane in the United States across 2,500 square miles in Four Corners. The emissions are likely coming from coal-bed methane production and leaking industry infrastructure. The four corners region was responsible for 10% of all the methane emissions from the natural gas sector in the country. This is just further evidence of the need for a strong rule from the BLM to limit venting and flaring on western public lands.

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This land is your land, this land is…or is it? We all know how the old Woodie Guthrie song goes—but according to a new report out from The Wilderness Society (TWS) this week, much of BLM-managed public land across the West is available to the oil and gas industry. The TWS report found that a whopping 90% of the acreage managed by the BLM out west is open for leasing, but only 10% of this land is available for other values that are equally important such as recreation, conservation, and grazing. According to the BLM’s own mandate, they should be managing public lands for multiple uses. Energy production in the West is absolutely important, but so are other values, and the BLM shouldn’t just default to leaving areas open for leasing, the report concludes.

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