Monday, June 01, 2015

U.S. unveils plan to limit petroleum drilling and other activities in sage grouse habitats

The Obama administration, aiming to keep the greater sage grouse off the endangered species list, "moved on Thursday to limit petroleum drilling and other activities on some of its wide-ranging habitat in the American West," Clifford Krauss and Diane Cardwell report for The New York Times. (Denver Post photo by Joe Amon: A sage grouse in Craig. Colo.)

"The move—which includes a collection of 14 land-management plans across 10 states—stems from a determination in 2010 by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service that the bird, a potent symbol of the West known for its flamboyant courtship strut, was in need of protection," Krauss and Cardwell write. "Millions of the birds once ranged across the wild prairies, but their numbers have plunged far and fast, down to 150,000 from 400,000, environmentalists estimate."

In November 2014, Fish and Wildlife listed the grouse as "threatened" and has until September to determine if any additional protections will be added. In March, officials in Nevada and Oregon took steps to protect the sage grouse. 

The new plan "would establish buffer zones around areas where male grouses gather for breeding, many of which abut or are inside oil and gas fields," Krauss and Cardwell write. "It will affect about two million acres, mostly federal land, but would allow the exercise of existing rights for energy development, minerals, rights of way and other permitted projects."

"The vast majority of federal lands within the most important sage grouse habitats, Interior Department officials said, have little to no potential for oil, gas, solar or wind energy development," Krauss and Cardwell write. "In other priority areas, the plans would limit conventional oil and gas drilling but potentially allow for horizontal drilling that would not disturb the surface."

While environmentalists applauded the plan, oil and gas executives said the plan "would put harsh conditions on new drilling permits even on existing leases," Krauss and Cardwell write.

No comments: