The federal Bureau of Land Management sold 57,800 acres of prime sage-grouse habitat to energy developers for as low as $2 an acre, after United States president Donald Trump administration’s order to roll back protections for the iconic bird.
Conservationists dubbed the area as the “golden triangle,” because of its importance to the bird species. They were once protected by former US president Barack Obama’s directives, since the birds are suffering a decline in the past 15 years due to oil and gas extraction expanding in their habitat.
“The administration and the energy industry say federal and state restrictions on well densities and surface construction are adequate to maintain the bird populations,” reported Kathy Love for the Washington Post.
However, a number of bird conservationists disagree and believes the habitat auctioned by the department is the most important of all.
“I can tell you with certainty that the Wyoming parcels auctioned this week were the most important habitat of all,” Brian Rutledge, vice president of the National Audubon Society, told The Washington Post.
Another auction will happen on March 19, with nearly 920,000 acres of bird habitats are going to be placed on the auction block.
Rutledge, along with Wyoming Outdoor Council member Dan Heilig, submitted an appeal letter to Governor Mark Gordon to stop the sale.
A study by Pew Charitable Trusts reports that 40 percent of world’s sage grouse lives in Wyoming and as many as 16 million of them once populated in the western plains. However, because of the continuous increase in energy developments, the bird’s population declined drastically – more than half between 2007 to 2013.
Rutledge believes the habitat loss would not just affect the sage grouse, but also that of the other species that depend on their sagebrush steppe, which is a type of grassland, for their own habitat.