Natural gas leases sold in 2006 on about 63,000 acres of endangered black-foot ferret habitat in the Wolf Creek area of northwestern Colorado have been voided by the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) appeals board.

The Interior Board of Land Appeals overturned BLM’s May 2006 lease sale after ruling that the federal agency had not followed appropriate procedures for public consultation. At the time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) had requested that the ferret habitat, located on about 20 parcels within the area that was offered in the lease sale, be excluded. The appeals board ruling said BLM had not adequately explained why it rejected FWS’s views.

BLM spokesman Steven Hall said the agency would review the appeals board’s decision to determine the next step. However, he said BLM officials believed the ruling “was based on procedures.” Further analysis and consultation with other federal agencies may be needed, he said.

BLM’s Colorado State Office reported in May 2006 that it sold 148 parcels (of 171 offered) in the quarterly oil and gas lease sale, or about 154,903 acres out of the 192,334 acres of public lands offered. The lease sale earned $6.828 million in proceeds. Many of the parcels offered within the Wolf Creek Management Area where the ferret was being reintroduced did not receive bids, BLM noted at the time.

However, following the sale, an appeal was filed by the Center for Native Ecosystems, WildEarth Guardians and the Wilderness Society.

“Many people have worked very hard to restore the ferret to Colorado, but even our most endangered wildlife has been offered up by the BLM in the rush to drill,” said Erin Robertson, senior biologist for the Center for Native Ecosystems. “Now the BLM must reconsider before allowing the home of Colorado’s only black-footed ferrets to become a well field.”

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