Sagebrush won’t stop mineral leases

The Bureau of Land Management canceled plans to withdraw federal minerals from possible leasing because they lay beneath focal areas for sagebrush, which are habitat for greater sage grouse.

The BLM announced the change after determining that the Obama administration proposal to withdraw 10 million acres in Western states “was unreasonable in light of the data that showed that mining affected less than 0.1 percent of sage-grouse-occupied range.”

There are no sagebrush focal areas in Colorado.

“The proposal to withdraw 10 million acres to prevent 10,000 from potential mineral development was a complete overreach,” acting BLM Director Mike Nedd said in a statement.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has stressed working with the states to conserve greater sage-grouse habitat without stifling economic development and job growth, Nedd said.

The lands will continue to be managed in accordance with existing plans, programs, policies and regulations in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

They had been temporarily closed to new mining claims for two years when the Interior Department proposed the lands for mineral withdrawal in 2015, while the agency studied whether locatable mineral exploration and mining projects would harm habitat important to the greater sage-grouse.

That temporary segregation period expired Sept. 24.

“Secretary Zinke is blowing up a bipartisan wildlife success story to allow more drilling and mining. At this point he might as well be drawing a paycheck from oil and gas companies instead of American taxpayers,” a statement from the Center for Western Priorities Executive Director Jennifer Rokala reads.


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