Federal land managers recently approved an oil and gas project involving fracking in northeast Nevada. The specific location of this project was previously identified by state wildlife officials as the most important habitat for the greater sage grouse, a bird being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act because of the myriad threats that jeopardize its long-term existence.
Despite the preservation of habitat being the most important factor to the sage grouse’s future and the outspoken desire of Nevada officials to avoid listing the species under the Endangered Species Act in the face of purported serious economic consequences to the state, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved Noble Energy Inc.'s proposal to conduct exploratory oil and gas drilling near Elko County.
BLM and state officials say there won't be a significant impact to the bird because they’ve attached conditions to the project, including limits on construction and traffic during the bird's mating season.
Unfortunately, these officials are missing the point. Almost as laughable as state and federal agencies supporting increased oil and gas development in areas that THEY have designated as critical areas that need strong protections to keep the sage grouse off the Endangered Species List are their claims that their so-called “limits” on development will do anything beneficial for the species.
The bottom line is that if we want to protect the sage grouse, we need to protect their habitat. As the project’s environmental assessment states, oil and gas exploration fragments sage grouse habitat. The BLM and State of Nevada cannot claim to be proactively protecting the sage grouse out of one corner of their mouth while they give the green light to activities that destroy the lands sage grouse need to survive out of the other corner.
Protect the sage grouse’s habitat. It’s not that complicated.