RENO, Nev. (AP) — Federal land managers have approved an oil and gas project involving hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in a portion of northeast Nevada identified by state wildlife officials as essential habitat for the imperiled greater sage grouse.
The Bureau of Land Management signed a decision record earlier this month on Noble Energy Inc.'s proposal to conduct oil and gas exploration drilling around Tabor Flats near Wells in Elko County.
The Houston-based company plans to drill a maximum of 20 wells on a combination of public and private lands. Slightly more than half of the 39,445-acre project area is on public land.
"Although this project does occur within both priority and general sage grouse habitat, the analysis has determined there will not be a significant impact to sage grouse as a result," bureau spokesman Christopher Rose told The Associated Press. "Multiple environmental protection measures and project design features are included to reduce the impacts of this project."
Nevada Department of Wildlife officials think the area's sage grouse can be adequately protected through the measures, including restrictions on construction activities and traffic during the bird's mating season, spokesman Chris Healy said. State wildlife officials were consulted during the bureau's environmental review of the project.
"There's no doubt we have concerns, but we also understand multiple use (of public land) seems to be the thing everybody is striving for," Healy said. "The key thing is we're not just giving input and going away. We'll be actively monitoring it and be part of the process to do the best we can to protect them."