The Trump Admin Auctioned Off an Imperiled Bird Habitat to Oil Companies for a Whopping $14,837

by Jen Hayden –

The Trump administration has auctioned off acres of habitat for the sage-grouse, which narrowly missed making the endangered species list after an extensive plan to preserve the bird’s habitat took effect during the Obama administration. Which, naturally means Trump is dead set marching back the progress. From Westwise:

Sage-grouse, a chicken-sized bird once widespread in the West, have seen their populations drop dramatically in recent years, thanks in part to oil and gas development. In an effort to keep the sage-grouse off the endangered species list — a move that would limit all forms of development throughout the region — ranchers, conservationists, Western governors and the Obama administration spent years working on collaborative plans to help the species rebound. Widely hailed as a success, the plans resulted in former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announcing that the sage-grouse would avoid the endangered species list. Unfortunately, this success story is under assault.

Citing the Trump administration’s “goals of promoting America’s energy independence,” the Bureau of Land Management put 15,000 acres of public land in Utah’s West Desert up for auction, with winners receiving leases to drill for oil and gas over the next decade. The West Desert is home to the most imperiled population of greater sage-grouse in Utah, whose numbers have plummeted from 190 in 2006 to 23 in 2015. Remarkably, four of the nine parcels put up for auction overlapped with “priority habitat management areas” laid out in the BLM’s own sage-grouse land use plans.

How did the auction go for this precious bird habitat? The Salt Lake Tribune reports it was a total bust:

The Bureau of Land Management’s attempt on Tuesday to auction nine parcels in Utah’s West Desert for oil and gas development was a bust, with just three parcels attracting the minimum bid of $2 an acre, netting the federal agency a grand total of $14,837.

Two oil companies walked away with a steal:

Only four bidders signed up for the online sale. Liberty Petroleum Corp. of New York City bought one lease, while Far West Petroleum of Pleasant Grove bought two.

Thankfully, the sale is already being challenged:

The so-called Sheeprocks population of great sage grouse in that area has seen its male numbers drop from 190 in 2006 to 23 in 2015, according to conservation groups challenging the lease sale.

“Sage grouse are like canaries in a coal mine,” said conservation biologist Allison Jones, executive director of Wild Utah Projecta nonprofit group advocating for Utah wildlife. ”Their population numbers are indicators of sagebrush ecosystem function and health, and when they’re not doing well, it’s a wake-up call that it’s time to do what we can to conserve and improve habitat conditions.”

Let’s hope this sale will be tied up in the courts long enough that Trump’s successor can right the ship.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos