Wilderness Workshop et al. v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management et al.

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Credit: Ed Andrieski/AP/REX/Shutterstock

In June 2015, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved a resource management plan in western Colorado, thereby opening up hundreds of thousands of acres to oil and gas leasing and development. It did so without properly analyzing and disclosing the adverse impacts on our climate, natural resources, and public health, nor did it study alternatives to the plan it approved. By doing this, the BLM failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the agency to objectively evaluate all reasonable alternatives to the proposed action and take a hard look at the environmental impacts resulting from its decisions. The BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office encompasses over 2.9 million acres and is home to some of this nation’s most spectacular public lands, wildlife, and wilderness. Many communities within this area are reliant on recreation and tourism, including Vail and Aspen.

In July 2016, NRDC and our allies on western conservation filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado to stop the agency from approving the leasing or development of oil or gas resources in the planning area until it complies with the law.

Then, in October 2018—in a win that protects the climate and public lands—a federal judge in Colorado found that the BLM failed to consider reasonable alternatives to oil and gas leasing and development, as well as the severity and impacts of greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuel development in its resource management plan for the Colorado River Valley. The judge agreed that BLM’s actions did not meet the National Environmental Policy Act’s mandate of informed decision-making. 

In September 2019, we reached an agreement with BLM on remedies. The agency agreed to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) to address the deficiencies identified by the court—and to not hold any oil or gas lease sales in the planning area before the SEIS is complete. We'll continue to monitor BLM's compliance as the agency files quarterly status reports with the court.

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