Climate + Energy

In Montana, Grassroots Coalition Demands to be Heard Around Latest Fracking Plans

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Beaverhead Valley in southwestern Montana. Photo by J. Sephen Conn, Flickr.

A grassroots coalition is pushing back against Trump Administration plans to auction nearly 70,000 acres of Montana public lands for fracking this December.

In a letter yesterday, groups representing tens of thousands of Montanans called on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to hold public hearings around the agency’s latest proposal to sell lands across the state to the oil and gas industry.

The Agency is fast-tracking plans to auction in several iconic landscapes where there is currently no oil and gas development even happening. These include lands in the Beaverhead River Valley in southwest Montana, along the Yellowstone River just east of the town of Livingston, and along the Missouri River just north of Helena.

Click here or below to see a map of the Montana lands slated to be sold to the oil and gas industry this December >>

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In its rush to sell of these lands, the Bureau of Land Management is unfortunately rolling back opportunities for the public to weigh in and influence its decision. Earlier this month, the agency released a lengthy environmental review of its plans, but provided only 15 days for the public to comment.

While a WildEarth Guardians-led coalition submitted extensive comments objecting to the fracking plans, the incredibly limited time frame for reviewing the agency’s proposal and submitting comments stands as a major barrier to engagement by the American public.

The Bureau of Land Management’s attempt to sidestep public scrutiny is all the more disturbing given the enormous amount of controversy that’s been brewing lately over plans to sell Montana’s public lands.

Responding to public pressure, last March the Bureau of Land Management backed down from plans to auction more than 17,000 acres for fracking near Livingston and along the Beartooth Mountain Front. And, after a defeat in federal court, the Agency canceled plans to sell 102,000 acres last June.

Most recently, WildEarth Guardians joined a coalition in filing a federal lawsuit to turn back the Agency’s sale of 150,000 acres to the oil and gas industry.

That the Bureau of Land Management is pushing to sell more public lands in Montana for fracking is even more outrageous given that only 38% of lands that have already been sold are actually producing any oil and gas. Truly, there is no actual need for the Agency to auction any more lands.

But the bigger controversy is that the Bureau of Land Management continues to turn its back on the climate, clean air, clean water, fish and wildlife, and other environmental consequences of oil and gas development in Montana.

Even in is most recent assessment, the Agency acknowledged that fracking could contaminate water and even deplete water flows in Montana. Here’s their direct quote:

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In spite of this, the Agency is pressing ahead, environmental consequences be damned. For Montana, which is known around the world for its unmatched scenery, outdoor recreation, vibrant fish and wildlife, and wild and natural splendor, it’s shocking the Bureau of Land Management would take such a position.

It’s even more shocking when you consider the Bureau of Land Management is supposed to manage these lands for multiple use and to protect the American public interest.

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The Beaverhead River in southwest Montana is renowned for its fish and wildlife. Photo by Latham Jenkins, Flickr.

It’s not just in Montana where the Bureau of Land Management is turning its back on the environmental consequences of fracking on public lands. In Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming millions of acres are under assault.

Throughout the American West, we have to hold the line and demand accountability to the American people.

In Montana and throughout the western U.S., our message to the Trump Administration and the Bureau of Land Management is clear: THESE ARE OUR LANDS, WE HAVE A SAY IN HOW THEY’RE MANAGED, AND WE’RE NOT GOING TO ALLOW THEM TO BE SACRIFICED FOR FRACKING.

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