Waiving goodbye to wildlife protection

  In your recent issue on oil and gas development in the Rockies (HCN, 8/18/03: Gas crisis puts Rockies in hot seat), you printed an industry group chart which purports to display the onerous “seasonal stipulations” attached to many BLM oil and gas leases, an example (in the industry’s view) of the “restrictions and impediments” hindering oil and gas development on the public lands.

A more telling presentation of the effect of such stipulations on oil and gas activities can be found at www.wy.blm.gov/pfo/wildlife.htm. It is the Pinedale BLM Field Office’s summary of “exceptions” (ie, waivers) to wildlife stipulations granted to oil and gas operators during the past season.

Of 173 requests for waivers from the stipulations protecting sage grouse, the BLM granted every one. This, despite the fact that sage grouse are rapidly dwindling on lands managed by the BLM. A similar situation exists for raptors — and for big game winter habitat, the BLM turned down just one waiver request.

The industry whines and complains that it is laboring under horrible “restrictions and impediments” to drilling. But the BLM seldom turns down the industry’s demands to be exempted from protective wildlife stipulations that they agreed to honor when they purchased the lease.

Dave Alberswerth
Washington, D.C.

The writer is The Wilderness Society’s BLM program director.