CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — A Nevada congressman renewed his criticism Thursday of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for deferring thousands of acres from proposed oil and gas development in the state because of concerns over sage grouse habitat.
Republican Rep. Mark Amodei said the BLM's "unilateral policy" of shutting down public lands out of concerns for sage grouse is misguided. But conservationists said it was Amodei, a former president of the Nevada Mining Association, who is off base as states and agencies around the West try to avoid a listing of the bird under the Endangered Species Act.
"I'm glad to see that the BLM is doing the prudent thing and protecting the habitat for sage grouse," said Kyle Davis, political and policy director for the Nevada Conservation League. "Like it or not we have a potentially serious problem here with the sage grouse."
The BLM this week offered 114,348 acres for oil and gas leases, getting competitive bids on only 32,328 acres. The agency deferred another 262,000 acres from bidding because of sage grouse. It was the second time this year the BLM withdrew acreage from oil and gas lease bidding — and the second time Amodei criticized the action as needless.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency is under court mandate to determine by 2015 if sage grouse deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act. States have been working with federal agencies, conservation groups and industries such as agriculture, mining and energy to draw their own plans to protect the bird and stave off the economic consequences they fear if the bird is listed as threatened or endangered.