Department of Justice Defends Trump-era Wyoming Leases

Earthjustice stands up to support 2015 sage-grouse plans, feds stand down


Liz Trotter,, (305) 332-5395

Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments to determine whether to uphold a Montana Federal District Court 2020 decision that vacated a Trump-era Bureau of Land Management policy directive that allowed millions of acres of oil and gas leasing in sensitive sage-grouse habitat.

Though it has committed to climate action, issued a pause on new leases, and today issued a conservation plan to tackle the biodiversity crisis, the Biden administration’s Department of Justice defended Trump-era leases on sage-grouse habitat before the court today.

“In its first 100 days, the Biden administration has shown the American people its commitment to preserving biodiversity and combating the climate crisis by pausing federal oil and gas leasing while it reviews the outdated program,” said Michael Freeman, senior attorney at Earthjustice. “Which is why we are baffled by the Department of Justice’s position defending illegally issued Trump-era leases. This goes directly against the environmental goals President Biden ran on.”

Michael Freeman, senior attorney at Earthjustice, represents Montana Wildlife Federation, the Wilderness Society, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, and Montana Audubon. 


The May 2020 decision invalidated that 2017 policy directive and also nullified 440 oil and gas leases, covering about 336,000 acres (525 square miles), that the Bureau of Land Management sold as part of a policy reversal that undercut the agency’s 2015 sage-grouse conservation plans.

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