Conservation Advocacy

'High potential for harm'

The inefficient and outdated way that oil and gas leases are sold on our public lands puts our big game species, trout populations, and sage grouse habitat at risk.

In collaboration with the National Wildlife Federation and Rocky Mountain Wild, Trout Unlimited has released a new report highlighting the Bureau of Land Management’s wasteful and detrimental practice of selling oil and gas leases on land with little or no potential for oil development.

Wells on BLM Land

Known as speculative leasing, this process not only diverts agency resources and taxpayer dollars away from other public lands priorities, but it also prevents these lands from being adequately managed for the more valuable resources they offer – important coldwater fish and wildlife habitat.

The report identifies the following issues with the way the BLM administers these leases and urges Director Tracy Stone-Manning to update the agency’s leasing practices.

Imbalanced priorities on millions of acres

From 2012 to 2020, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) leased five million acres – roughly the twice the size of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks combined – that had little potential for energy development but overlapped valuable fish and wildlife habitat. Specifically, since 2012:

  • 55 percent of federal oil and gas leases were on lands with little to no potential for oil and gas development
  • 60 percent of leases on public lands with limited potential were sold for the minimum bid of $2 per acre
  • 66 percent of leases on lands with little to no development potential were sold non-competitively

Critical habitat and tourism destinations at-risk

Currently, 5.1 million acres of greater sage grouse habitat, 1.8 million acres of sensitive big game habitat, and more than 1 million acres of native trout watersheds are tied up in federal oil and gas leases on lands with limited development potential. What’s equally concerning is the number of popular destinations across the West impacted by these leases. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Ruby Mountains, Nevada 
  • Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, Wyoming 
  • Tendoy Mountains, Montana 
  • North Park, Colorado 
  • San Pedro Parks Wilderness and Rio Puerco, New Mexico 
North Park, Colorado

With increased pressure on our fish and wildlife habitat, we must do better. Please take a moment to encourage the BLM to revise regulations governing public lands oil and gas leasing and development and to balance responsible energy development with the conservation of our cherished public lands, waters, and wildlife.