Celebrating a Rare Win for the Environment from the Trump Administration
"The Bureau of Land Management has withdrawn more than 27,000 acres [in 20 parcels] near Rocky Mountain National Park from a June oil and gas lease sale, drawing concern from the industry but cheers from environmentalists fighting the Trump administration's emphasis on increased fossil fuel development," reports Scott Streater for E&E News.
Conservation groups praised the decision, saying it is a good sign that the Trump administration will not abandon policies that call for careful review of parcels nominated by the industry for lease.
At the same time, BLM approved offering "86 parcels at the lease sale covering more than 73,000 acres in nearby Jackson and Routt counties, as well as Rio Blanco and Moffat counties in the state's northwest corner, the agency said," adds Streater. However, it was the aforementioned parcels in Grand County that had drawn significant opposition:
Numerous groups, including the town of Hot Sulphur Springs, The Wilderness Society, WildEarth Guardians and a nearby dude ranch, had challenged the agency's proposal to offer the 20 parcels for lease in Grand County.
The parcels also had been opposed by the Grand County's Board of County Commissioners, which last fall submitted formal comments (pdf) to BLM expressing concern that "oil and gas development would have negative consequences on our local environment and economy."
Presumably it also helped that the land "is characterized as low or no potential for oil and gas development" according to the Grand County commissioners, although that didn't prevent Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Denver-based Western Energy Alliance, to express her displeasure with the ruling.
She said BLM "had carefully analyzed the areas in Grand County" during a completed land-use plan update "and determined they're suitable for leasing."
This may be a rare "win" for the environmental community during the Trump era when conservation is pitted against energy extraction. It may also be telling that the Trump official in charge is Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.