Conservationists promise fight over Nevada oil and gas leases

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Conservationists say they will fight a federal government proposal to allow oil and gas drilling in remote northeast Nevada, including open range that’s home to a dwindling species of ground-dwelling bird.

A Center for Biological Diversity official threatened lawsuits after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management opened a one-month comment period on Thursday about plans to lease eight parcels totaling about 25 square miles (65 square kilometers) west of Ely in White Pine County.

“If it goes forward with this plan, the BLM will end up in court yet again,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of a center that frequently takes the government to court over conservation issues.

“Covering 25 square miles of Nevada’s last, best sage grouse habitat with oil rigs, roads and fences ... will push the grouse closer to extinction, worsen our climate crisis and cause massive air pollution,” he said.

The government acknowledged in its announcement of a planned September land lease that the patchwork of parcels includes habitat for the imperiled greater sage grouse.

It called plans to lease land in the West for drilling part of a Trump administration effort to promote American energy independence.

“The oil and gas industry on public lands in Nevada contributed $2.7 million in total economic output” in fiscal 2017, the bureau said.

However, Andy Maggi, executive director of the Nevada Conservation League, put the value outdoor recreation in Nevada, including in greater sage grouse habitat, at $12.6 billion a year according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

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