For Immediate Release, November 14, 2018
Lawsuit Seeks Public Records about the 5,000-Well Converse County Oil and Gas Project
BOISE, Idaho— Today Western Watersheds Project sued the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in federal court for illegally withholding public records concerning rare plants and animals that could be harmed by the proposed 5,000-well Converse County Oil and Gas Project in Wyoming.
“All we’re asking the BLM to do is disclose the conversations it’s had with Fish and Wildlife Service about Threatened and Endangered species,” said Kelly Fuller, Energy and Mining Campaign Director for Western Watersheds Project. “The public has a right to know what federal agencies are saying to each other about rare plants and wildlife. What is the BLM hiding?”
Threatened and Endangered wildlife at risk from the Converse County Oil and Gas Project include whooping crane, piping plover, interior least tern, black-footed ferret, pallid sturgeon, and Preble’s meadow jumping mouse.
“The law required BLM to respond to the request within 20 days, but the agency has been dragging its feet for almost a year,” said Talasi Brooks of Advocates for the West, who is representing Western Watersheds Project. “We hope our lawsuit will get BLM to finally give Western Watersheds Project records to which it is legally entitled.”
The Endangered Species Act requires the BLM to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about impacts to listed species from planned projects. Western Watersheds Project requested the consultation records for the Converse County Oil and Gas Project from BLM under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The BLM has illegally withheld them.
The intensive oil and gas development from the Converse County Oil and Gas Project would also harm greater sage-grouse and its habitat, particularly in the Douglas Core Area, as well as elk, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and several native fish species. The Douglas Core Area has been the focus of past controversies over exempting drilling proposals from having to comply with sage-grouse habitat protections, and, for some criteria, the development thresholds in the Douglas Core Area have already been exceeded.
Western Watersheds Project is represented in this litigation by Advocates for the West.
Western Watersheds Project is a nonprofit environmental conservation organization that works to protect and restore watersheds and wildlife throughout the West.
Advocates for the West is a public interest environmental law firm that protects and defends our public lands, watersheds, and air, through litigation and negotiation.