Wild Horse Education often works to provide information to the public. In addition, the work done by WHE members on the range, can enrich the work of environmental groups through individual participation (one of our members is deeply involved in whopping crane protection efforts. Another works on-site to help track monk seals in her “spare time.”). Those of us at WHE have deep concern for all of our wild things, as we focus our work on protecting our wild horses; it is all connected.
Our founder, Laura Leigh, is deeply committed to protecting our wild horses in the wild. The area of the approved Western Oil Exploration’s Scott Federal oil wells is still an amazing landscape under serious threat. “When the sage grouse suffer we know the first thing they will blame is a wild horse. The horses and the sage grouse out there would be just fine if the livestock, mining and oil and gas were kept in check. I have watched this area for over a decade and all that is happening just tears at my heart and soul.” Leigh is working with WWP and has committed to assisting efforts to overturn the approval of this project. She one of the first steps in protecting our wild horses, is protecting the land they stand on.
Appeal Targets BLM’s Approval of Oil Wells in Designated Sage-Grouse Habitat in Nevada
RENO, Nev.― Conservation groups are appealing the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of Western Oil Exploration’s Scott Federal oil wells in designated greater sagegrouse habitat near three sage-grouse leks in the Ely, Nev. area. The agency’s decision violates its own sage-grouse plan amendments and puts local populations of the bird at risk.
“BLM illegally approved the Scott Federal oil wells near three sage-grouse leks without following the Nevada sage grouse plan, showing once again why greater sage-grouse must be protected under the Endangered Species Act,” said Kelly Fuller, energy and mining campaign director at Western Watersheds Project. “BLM can’t be counted on to enforce its own sage-grouse plans, especially in Nevada.”
On April 17 the BLM’s Bristlecone Field Office approved drilling permits for two new oil wells, reserve pits, water wells and road widening. On May 21 Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity formally requested that Nevada BLM State Director Jon Raby review and reverse the approval of the Scott Federal oil wells.
“The Trump administration has been recklessly pursuing fossil fuel extraction at the expense of Nevada’s wildlife and climate,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center. “The BLM is flouting the law so Trump’s campaign donors can continue to reap oil-soaked profits from our public lands.”
The BLM’s approval of the Scott Federal oil wells fails to meet the requirements of the 2015 Nevada sage-grouse plan by:
● Allowing two reserve pits in greater sage-grouse habitat. Reserve pits are notorious for killing birds and other wildlife. Building reserve pits at the Scott Federal wells will put greater sage-grouse and other birds at risk of poisoning or drowning.
● Granting permission for the project to go into production without remote monitoring of project facilities. Remote monitoring decreases disturbance of greater sage-grouse, which helps their populations to recover.
● Allowing construction to begin without first measuring background noise levels to assess the effects of additional construction noise and ensure that noise levels don’t harm the sage-grouse
“Sage-grouse around Ely are in real trouble,” said Fuller. “Four years ago, their population dropped so much that BLM was required by Nevada’s sage-grouse plan to take steps to help them. Oil and gas exploration was identified as one of the causes of the grouse population drop, yet BLM Nevada is still approving oil and gas wells in grouse habitat and letting oil companies off the hook by not holding them to all of the grouse plan’s requirements.”
“I travel range after range and see first-hand the impacts of BLM ignoring many regulations, including sage grouse plans.” said Laura Leigh of Wild Horse Education and member of Western Watersheds Project, “This particular area has been subject to unauthorized livestock grazing, a new gold mine, another pending mineral mine, more mineral exploration and now the approval of Western Oil Exploration’s Scott Federal oil wells. The sage grouse in the area will not survive this onslaught. The first thing that BLM will blame? it will be wild horses and not the fact that they failed all mandates to protect habitat.”
Federal regulations require Raby to make a decision on the conservation groups’ request within 10 business days of receiving the request or within 10 business days following an oral presentation to the state director about the request. As of May 28, Raby’s office had not acknowledged receiving the review request from the conservation groups. [UPDATE: About an hour after this news release was sent to reporters, BLM’s Nevada State Office acknowledged receiving the conservation groups’ request for state director review.]
A few favorite pictures from the area of the project
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