Wildlife advocates question federal sage grouse maps


Proposed federal conservation plans for greater sage-grouse have sliced and diced important habitat, conservation advocates say. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Report says fragmented habitat isn’t adequate for protection of species

Staff Report

FRISCO — After a detailed mapping analysis maps, wildlife conservation advocates say the federal government downsized important habitat for sage grouse.

The findings are outlined in a new report released by WildEarth Guardians. It compares protected areas to remaining key population hotspots. Almost 20 million acres designated as Priority Areas for Conservation disappeared from the Priority Habitat areas proposed in U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management sage grouse plans. Continue reading

Feds to hold ‘listening sessions’ on public land coal royalties


The public will have a chance to weigh in on federal coal mining leasing practices.

Changes to leasing rules would benefit U.S. taxpayers

Staff Report

FRISCO — After a string of reports and investigations made it clear that taxpayers are not getting their fair share of money from coal mining on federally managed public lands, the Department of Interior last week announced it will hold a series of “listening sessions” around the country on the federal coal program.

The stakes are high — in fiscal year 2012, about 42 percent of the 1.05 billion tons of coal produced in the United States came from coal tracts leased under the federal coal leasing program.

One report from an energy think tank concluded that the federal treasury may have missed out on as much as $29 billion over the past 30 years because of the way energy companies and federal land managers account for those royalties. Another recent report from the Government Accountability Office found that the federal government’s accounting system does not “provide reasonable assurance that oil and gas are accurately measured.” Continue reading

BLM’s California fracking plan challenged in court


A lawsuit in federal court could delay new oil and gas development in California. Photo via BLM.

Lawsuit say agency’s plan violates federal environmental laws

Staff Report

FRISCO — A federal plan to open more public lands in California to energy development will be tested in court, with Earthjustice filing a lawsuit to block fracking across California’s Central and San Joaquin valleys; the southern Sierra Nevada; and in Santa Barbara; San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties along California’s central coast.

At issue is a Bureau of Land Management resource plan for the region that has already been called into question in 2013, when a federal judge ruled that the BLM violated the law when it issued oil leases in Monterey County without considering the environmental risks of fracking. Continue reading

Feds OK three big solar projects in Nevada

Regional plan helps speed reviews


New solar energy projects are sprouting across the sunny Southwest.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Up-front planning helped speed three big new solar projects through the federal review process, the U.S. Department of Interior said this week, touting the administration’s Western Solar Plan as a model for renewable energy development on public lands.

The plan mapped out solar energy development zones in areas where there was little potential for conflicts over resources. The reviews three new projects in Clark County, Nevada, where completed in 10 months, about half the time it previously took under the project-by-project system. Continue reading

Public lands: Feds release sage grouse plans

Last, best hope for endangered birds?


Staff Report

FRISCO — If plans, press releases and political mud-slinging could help greater sage-grouse, the majestic western bird would be well on the way to recovery. But the only thing that will really help the imperiled species is on-the-ground action — protecting and restoring the habitat the birds need to survive.

A series of proposed land-use plans released by the federal government this week aims to do just that, by minimizing and avoiding new disturbance to habitat, restoring habitat when possible and reducing threats like wildfires and invasive species. Here’s a fact sheet. Continue reading

Environment: Feds tackle sage-steppe restoration


The BLM is eying sagebrush restoration work.

Great Basin projects to bolster sage-grouse habitat

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal land managers want to stem the loss of sagebrush habitat with a $4 million series of projects across the Great Basin.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said the Bureau of Land Management projects will  reduce the threat of  more frequent and intense wildfires that are damaging sagebrush landscapes and productive rangelands. Continue reading

Conservation groups outlines flaws in new oil and gas drilling plan for Colorado’s Piceance Basin

Formal protest says BLM violated planning regulations


Thousands of new fossil fuel wells could take a toll on wildlife in northwest Colorado.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation and wildlife advocacy groups are protesting a new federal plan that covers oil and gas drilling and fracking in the northwestern Corner of Colorado.

The recently published resource management plan amendment for Bureau of Land Management’s White River Field Office failed to meet legal requirements because it didn’t consider special areas of environmental concern, the groups wrote in their formal April 27 protest letter. Continue reading


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