Conservation groups sue BLM, Interior over oil and gas permits

Two conservation groups sued the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management in federal court in Washington on Wednesday. The plaintiffs cited the issuance of more than 3,500 oil and gas drilling permits in Wyoming and New Mexico that are allegedly in violation of multiple environmental acts.

The lawsuit alleged DOI, BLM, Interior Secretary Debra Haaland and BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning violated implementation regulations found in the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

According to a news release, WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity, two environmental groups, sued because the oil and gas wells could produce “approximately 490 million to 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions over their operational lives.”

Wyoming Climate Summit is Saturday in Lander

The Wyoming Climate Summit, sponsored by the Lander Climate Action Network, invites all to the Wind River Reservation on Saturday for a full day of speakers, panels, an electric vehicle show and lunch.

The free summit runs from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to bring together people from across the state concerned about the impacts of climate change on their communities.

For more information or a full agenda, visit

US to spend $9 to bolster sagebrush ecosystems

IDAHO (AP) — Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has announced $9 million for 40 projects in Wyoming and seven other Western states for sagebrush ecosystems to combat invasive species and wildfire, reduce the spread of juniper trees and promote community and economic stability.

The money will be used in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and Nevada. Haaland said the money will advance efforts to promote healthy sagebrush landscapes and communities threatened by climate change.

“This is an historic opportunity to put resources into the health and natural infrastructure of America’s sagebrush ecosystem, which serves as the lifeblood of rural communities and Tribal lands in the West,” said Haaland in a statement issued while visiting northern Idaho.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through an infrastructure law is receiving $10 million per year for five years to expand work to conserve sagebrush ecosystems. The ecosystem faces a variety of threats, notably from cheatgrass, which is prone to wildfire and wipes out native plants that sage grouse need to survive.

“Sagebrush country is a national treasure that supports hundreds of species that live nowhere else on the planet,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams in a statement. “The Service is a partner in a larger constellation of public and private entities pulling together toward a common vision for a healthy sagebrush ecosystem.”

Giant rangeland wildfires in recent decades have destroyed vast areas of sagebrush steppe. Experts say the wildfires have mainly been driven by warming temperatures and cheatgrass. Once cheatgrass takes over, the land is of little value.

Sweetwater sheriff disputes ACLU claim

GREEN RIVER (WNE) — The Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office is disputing a claim by the Wyoming ACLU that the office is among the most egregious on civil rights violations of undocumented immigrants at the Sweetwater County Detention Center.

According to a media release from the sheriff’s office, the office was falsely accused of ranking in the top 54 law enforcement agencies nationwide an ACLU report claims are the most egregious in civil rights violations. The actual list does not include the SCSO, or any Wyoming law enforcement agency.

The claim focuses on participation in the 287 (g) Program established through the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. The program creates agreements between law enforcement agencies and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that aim to reduce “the number of criminal offenders that are released back into the community without being screened for immigration violations,” according to the ICE website.

Commenting on the allegation made by ACLU Wyoming Communications Director Janna Farley, SCSO spokesperson Jason Mower claims a press release issued by Farley misrepresented findings of a report issued by the ACLU.

“Ms. Farley’s claim in her press release (June 8) is patently false,” Mower said. “It’s defamatory, and it’s a gross misrepresentation of the actual findings in the report.”

Mower said the sheriff’s office participates in the program, saying that participation isn’t a secret. Sheriff John Grossnickle, also cited in the media release, said the office has had limited participation in the program for more than 12 years.

Big Piney puzzled over water losses

PINEDALE (WNE) — The town of Big Piney is producing many more gallons of municipal water than customers are paying for, and staff are trying to find out where it’s going.

The town pumped 5.36 million gallons of water from April 19 to May 16, said water-sewer manager Mike Wagstaff at the Big Piney Town Council’s meeting that night.

However, only 2 million gallons were paid for by its customers “for a 50-percent loss,” he told Mayor Tyler Maxfield and council members.

On the outgoing end, 5.826 million gallons were transported by pipeline to Marbleton’s wastewater treatment facility.

Wagstaff said he sent 50,000 gallons to the Big Piney’s sewer lagoons. The town’s crew has tried to locate leaks, patch up lines and seal manholes but the high unaccounted-for numbers have been reported for months now.

Mayor Maxfield asked Wagstaff to “keep a close eye on the aquifers” as drought conditions extend across the state.

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