BLM issues sage grouse guidelines

Posted: Tuesday, January 05, 2010

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is directing its Wyoming offices to consider certain restrictions for oil and gas drilling, new wind turbines and other types of development in sage grouse habitat.

In many cases, the BLM could limit drilling to one well pad per square mile. Also, the BLM will prohibit many activities during sage grouse breeding season each spring.

Acting BLM State Director Bill Hill sent the guidance to Wyoming's BLM field offices in a memorandum Monday. While restrictions to protect sage grouse aren't a new idea, BLM officials said they want their Wyoming field offices to adopt a more uniform approach to such restrictions statewide.

At the same time, the restrictions are guidelines and don't mandate the same approach to every bit of development proposed in sage grouse habitat, said Chris Keefe, a BLM wildlife biologist in Cheyenne.

"It doesn't say, 'Here's your restrictions, here's how to approach every project,"' said Keefe. "It says, 'These must be considered in your range of alternatives in how to develop things."'

The guidelines come as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepares to decide whether to list sage grouse as an endangered species. That decision is expected no later than next month.

One goal in the memorandum says there should be no more than one new oil or gas well or wind turbine per square mile in core sage grouse habitat.

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