ALBUQUERQUE — An environmental group has taken another poke at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for its oversight of oil and gas development in the Four Corners region, charging in federal court that the agency has failed to protect wildlife on public lands from disturbances caused by drilling and other activity, The Associated Press reports.
WildEarth Guardians’ lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Washington, D.C., alleges the BLM routinely allows oil and gas developers to avoid seasonal closures and other limitations designed to protect wildlife, the story says.
”Just an e-mail or phone call from an oil company, and the Bureau of Land Management brushes aside key wildlife protections that it promised on public land,” WildEarth Guardians climate and energy director Robert Ukeiley said. ”It’s not just a few exceptions. The feds are consistently telling oil and gas companies that they don’t have to worry about wildlife.”
BLM officials in New Mexico dismissed the allegations, saying waivers are occasionally granted, but are limited.
Steve Henke, district manager of the BLM’s Farmington office, noted that the agency doubled the size of closed areas in the Four Corners region during the winter and spring breeding months, to 400,000 acres, to protect wildlife such as mule deer and elk.
Another official, BLM Deputy Director of Minerals in New Mexico Tony Herrell, told AP, ”It’s not about being buddy-buddy with the oil and gas companies. We have regulatory compliance with them and we have criteria and operational protocols that we follow and it’s about us following that protocol and staying neutral and objective in our management.”
WildEarth Guardians was part of a coalition that made similar charges against the BLM in December, saying the agency’s Farmington and Carlsbad offices were allowing their own wildlife protection measures to be routinely violated.