From the Publisher's Desk: Judge’s ruling on oil, gas leases cannot stand

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Matt Adelman, publisher, Glenrock Independent

Federal judge Ronald Bush, in Idaho earlier this month ,stopped work on 449 oil and gas leases in our state encompassing 334,762 acres – including some in Converse County – as he sided with environmental groups against the Bureau of Land Management over sage grouse habitat.

The Western Energy Alliance said the ruling was “simply unhinged from the factual record,” according to 

We couldn’t agree more.

The judge in this case seemed to favor the possible impacts to grouse habitat across giant swaths of Montana and Wyoming from BLM oil and gas leases over the real impacts to humans – their jobs and livelihoods and the economic snowball effect on communities.

Sage grouse populations are in decline, of that there is no dispute, and not all – or even most – of that decline can be placed solely at the minerals industry’s feet. Many factors – natural ones as well as man-influenced ones – play a role. Meanwhile, Wyoming has made tremendous strides in turning that around with strong habitat and wildlife management plans in place while still accommodating oil and gas extraction and other activities, like ranching, hunting and recreation.

Apparently, the judge didn’t take that into consideration when he issued a blanket two-state declaration affecting many habitats and economies and situations. Few are the same, and the BLM is good at dealing with what’s happening “on the ground” in a particular location as opposed to making blanket rulings. 

As expected, the environmental community is elated by this judge’s decision. For example, Center for Biological Diversity’s senior attorney Michael Saul called Bush’s ruling “another stunning defeat for the Trump administration’s serial lawbreaking policies.

Industry officials noted the leases often contained wildlife protections for the very issues the environmental and conservation groups argued for in the lawsuit leading up to this ruling. Simply put, the BLM considered needed protections and put in place stipulations to protect wildlife like sage grouse and other species.

Gov. Mark Gordon is considering whether Wyoming should appeal the decision. We believe he has to, because the state has too much to lose by letting a judge from Idaho set a precedent for how the BLM issues oil and gas leases in our state.


––Matt Adelman


Glenrock Independent

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