On April 28th, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver stopped the Bureau of Land Management's plans to drill for oil and gas on the Otero Mesa. The three-panel judge ruled that the BLM had failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act by not considering any alternatives to drilling on the mesa and not fully analyzing the impacts that such development would have. This is a huge win and one that reaffirms the BLM's mandate to manage for multiple uses. "Development is a possible use," the ruling states, "which BLM must weigh against other possible uses - including conservation to protect environmental values, which are best assessed through the NEPA process."
Otero Mesa is an enormous expanse of grassland in Southeastern New Mexico. At 1.2 million acres, the area is actually the largest undisturbed grassland in the Chihuahuan Desert. The drilling plan laid forth by the BLM would have threatened this critical habitat and the region's scarce groundwater supply. The BLM now will likely have to complete an environmental impact statement about their mangement plan and at least consider completely closing Otero Mesa to development. Additionally, this decision will apply to federal lands throughout the 10th Circuit and gurantee that environmental impacts are properly considered in any development plan.
Read the AP story.