An administrative judge at the Interior Board of Land Appeals in Wyoming has ruled against a Bureau of Land Management request to dismiss an appeal filed by the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation. The two conservation groups have challenged the BLM’s 2011 decision to approve natural gas drilling in the Atlantic Rim area, southwest of Rawlins, on the basis of the area’s use for recreation.
In 2007, at the height of the drilling, the BLM created an Adaptive Management Plan intended to provide a dynamic approach to assessing negative impacts to wildlife and adjusting drilling plans to minimize harmful effects. But Michael Saul, the lawyer representing the groups, says land reviews using scientific data have not happened.
“The grounds of our appeal are that no new drilling project should be authorized until the BLM can show it is complying with the promises from 2007,” Saul says.
The Interior Board of Land Appeals administrative judge ruled the groups could challenge the drilling of a 48-well coal-bed methane project based on recreational ties to the land.
“Standing is a legal doctrine that says courts should not adjudicate academic disputes to parties not directly involved,” Saul says. “We were able to bring forward affidavits from a member of the federation recounting his recreational use in the Atlantic Rim. Last week, the Interior Board ruled on that procedural area, saying that his intention for recreation, which is affected by the drilling, is sufficient for the board to consider the case.”
The judge has yet to rule whether the BLM adhered to the proper planning process as laid out in 2007, before approving more drilling in 2011.
— Cayte Bosler
FISH AND WILDLIFE SURVEY SHOWS AMERICANS SPEND BILLIONS ON OUTDOOR RECREATION
In 2011, wildlife enthusiasts shelled out $54.9 billion on expenses for recreational activities like hunting and fishing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service census estimates that 33.1 million U.S. residents fished that year. The most popular fish species caught among freshwater anglers was the black bass.
The survey also reported that 13.7 million people spent billions of dollars on trip expenditures and equipment to pursue big game, such as deer and elk. The total amount of money spent on wildlife recreation also includes the subtler side of outdoor recreating, like camping and bird watching.
— Cayte Bosler
BOULDER COUNTY TO RECOGNIZE CONSERVATION EFFORTS
The Boulder County Parks and Open Space Department is accepting nominations of families, individuals and organizations that have made significant achievements in the areas of land conservation, environmental stewardship or historic preservation. Seven individuals received awards last year for their volunteer efforts. Nominations are open until Thursday, Jan. 31.
— Cayte Bosler