(Reuters) - The Trump administration has shelved plans to offer nearly 350,000 acres for oil and gas leasing in Wyoming next week, according to documents seen by Reuters on Thursday, citing protections for a threatened Western bird.
In notices posted on a Bureau of Land Management website on Sept. 11 and Sept. 14, the agency’s Wyoming office said it had deferred the sale of all oil and gas parcels located in what are known as sage grouse habitat management areas while it finalizes a new strategy for how leasing there will be prioritized.
Habitat management areas require protections for sage grouse but permit some development.
The documents cited a May court decision by a U.S. judge in Montana that invalidated a 2018 memorandum by Trump’s Interior Department opening up hundreds of thousands of acres to oil and gas leasing that had been restricted under an Obama-era plan to protect the prairie bird.
The court order was a blow to President Donald Trump’s efforts to increase energy production on federal lands by rolling back environmental regulation.
BLM Wyoming had intended to hold two separate sales next week of 290 parcels on more than 350,000 acres, according to BLM documents. It will instead sell eight parcels on more than 4,000 acres in the southeast corner of the state, not located in sage grouse habitat. The sale will be held on Sept. 24 on the online auction platform EnergyNet.
About half of the parcels had originally been intended for sale in June, but that auction was postponed to September due to the coronavirus pandemic and oil price crash.
BLM said the deferred parcels would be offered at the first opportunity following implementation of a new strategy. Agency officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Tom Brown
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