Last week, Secretary Ryan Zinke deferred the oil and gas leases on 17,300 acres near Livingston and in the foothills of the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains, citing the cultural and economic significance of the surrounding area. Despite this positive step forward, oil and gas lease sales around the state marched forward today. The sale included one lease adjacent to the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument which sold for $2/acre. Many other similarly cheap leases were squarely in the middle of crucial big game winter range and priority sage-grouse habitat.
Secretary Zinke, who has yet to hire a BLM Director, offered the public barely any opportunity to weigh in around today’s lease sales. While we were all heartened to see a few areas saved, it is irresponsible for the Secretary to unilaterally decide to protect some landscapes and endanger others with similar irreplaceable cultural and recreational resources, not to mention super big game and critical sage grouse habitat, as well as important water resources on a whim.
Future generations of Montanans deserve the same opportunities we’ve had to access and enjoy Central and Eastern Montana’s unique landscapes. This area is simply too important to be sold to the highest bidder for oil and gas drilling. Secretary Zinke must uphold the Department’s multiple-use mandate, and protect the cultural, recreational, water and wildlife resources that are critical to local communities and our outdoor heritage.
Take Action: Tell Secretary Zinke to Protect Western Lands