A federal court in the District of Columbia has upheld a record of decision (ROD) issued by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allowing oil and gas exploration in western Wyoming. Theodore Roosevelt Conservation P’ship v. Salazar, No. 08-1047 (D.D.C. 9/29/10). Plaintiff, a non-profit group that supports hunting, fishing and habitat conservation in the area, sued BLM in 2008 alleging that the agency violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to implement monitoring and mitigation requirements established in a 2000 BLM ROD for the area. The project area consists of 198,000 acres, approximately 80 percent of which is administered by BLM. The 2000 BLM decision authorized development of 700 oil and gas wells over a 10-15 year period.

After plaintiff filed its lawsuit, BLM issued a final supplemental environmental impact statement, a new ROD and a new resource management plan. In an amended complaint, plaintiff alleged that the 2008 ROD failed to implement “adequate mitigation measures sufficient to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation” of the environment in the area.

According to the court, the 2008 ROD addressed many of plaintiff’s concerns by committing the oil and gas operators to a “matrix” designed to implement wildlife monitoring and sequential mitigation measures. The court also found that the mitigation measures provided for protection of special areas, habitat enhancements and conservation easements “as a means of compensating for the impact to wildlife.” The court therefore granted BLM’s motion for summary judgment saying that while plaintiff may disagree with BLM’s ultimate determination, the 2008 ROD and supplemental environmental impact statement “support[] the BLM’s balancing the need for heightened national gas production against foreseeable declines in wildlife, and its ultimate determination that unnecessary or undue degradation would not occur.”