Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 13, 2018

Contact:  Taylor McKinnon, (801) 300-2414,

Zinke Trims Montana Fracking Auction But Sacrifices Prime Sage Grouse Habitat

LIVINGSTON, Mont.— Secretary Ryan Zinke is allowing 23,000 acres of prime greater sage grouse habitat to go on the auction block today in his home state, a week after removing other lands in central Montana from the oil and gas lease sale.

In a statement to reporters last week after setting aside 17,300 acres near Livingston, Mont., Zinke said “there are places where it is appropriate to develop and where it’s not.” But today Zinke’s Bureau of Land Management is ignoring a wave of administrative protests by the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups to offer 46,000 acres of public land and minerals for drilling and fracking, half of it sage grouse habitat that BLM land-use plans identified as important for conserving the species.

“Postponing the auction of other Montana parcels can’t hide the outrageous decision to sacrifice this imperiled bird to fracking pollution,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center. “Zinke’s rushing through these fossil-fuel leases and disregarding major threats to communities and wildlife. It’s like the Wild West out there.”

Last week Zinke postponed leasing 17,300 acres of public land near Livingston because of concerns about “the local economy, and the effects of oil and gas drilling and production on the environment including air quality, drinking water, and overall water quality.”

This partial reprieve failed to address the serious threat today’s auction poses to climate, water quality, wildlife habitat and air quality. New BLM policies will eliminate the very environmental review and public comment process that identified the concerns Zinke cited.

While sparing lands near the Beartooth Front, Zinke and the BLM dismissed protests from the Center, Western Watersheds Project and American Bird Conservancy documenting the fact that the BLM disregarded threats to imperiled greater sage-grouse habitat in eastern Montana. BLM’s lease sale flies in the face of 2015 land-use planning changes designed to protect the showy, imperiled bird from rampant oil and gas development.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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