Western Values Project opens investigation in response to leaked document revealing industry influence of Interior’s sage-grouse review

FOIA filed in preparation for litigation after documents show oil and gas lobbyists shaped recommendations from Secretary Zinke


The Western Values Project (WVP) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking correspondence between industry representatives and staff at the Department of the Interior who worked on Secretary Zinke’s sage-grouse review. The request comes after WVP obtained a leaked document showing that the Western Energy Alliance (WEA), an oil and gas industry trade group, was behind most of the recommendations that made it into the Secretary’s report.

Read the leaked document here.

The memo from WEA is nothing short of an industry wish list, with 15 recommendations for the sage-grouse review team. Analysis shows that 13 of those requests were granted by Secretary Zinke’s handpicked sage-grouse review team. A side-by-side comparison can be found here.

“Despite pleas from Western governors, stakeholders, farmers, ranchers, scientists and conservationists, it appears Secretary Zinke was only listening to lobbyists from the oil and gas industry during his sage-grouse review. When you compare Secretary Zinke’s recommendations to the oil and gas industry’s wish list, it becomes clear that he is doing the bidding of these Washington, D.C. special interests,” said Jayson O’Neill, Deputy Director of the Western Values Project. “This is a dangerous trend that is becoming a pattern for Secretary Zinke – offer lip-service to the West while granting private industry unfettered control of our public lands.”

Western governors from both political parties reached out to Secretary Zinke urging him to preserve the plan they spent years developing, including a request that the department not move forward with population targets and captive breeding. Those requests were ignored.

If the Department of the Interior fails to fulfill the FOIA request within a timely manner, WVP will file suit.

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