SALT LAKE CITY — Separate lawsuits are challenging the U.S. Department of Interior over oil and gas leases issued near a trio of monuments in the Four Corners region and revamped greater sage grouse plans.
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance wants 35 oil and gas leases totaling 54,508 acres of public lands near the former Bears Ears, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients rescinded.
It argues the lands are among the most culturally rich in the United States and home to cliff dwellings, pueblos, kivas, petroglyphs and more.
Landon Newell, a staff attorney with the organization, said the Bureau of Land Management failed to consider the "big picture" impacts to nearby monuments, including impacts to night skies and cultural heritage.
The lawsuit filed April 19 is challenging leasing decisions made in 2018 — decisions opposed by the BLM's sister agency, the National Park Service, which termed the proposal as ill-advised.
In a separate action, four conservation groups are asking a federal judge to block new plans they say allow drilling, mining and other activities across 51 million acres of greater sage-grouse habitat in seven Western states, including Utah.
"Sage grouse are an American icon that will be irreparably harmed by the wanton destruction of sagebrush habitats that the recent amendments allow,” said Erik Molvar of Western Watersheds Project.Comment on this story
Greater sage grouse once occupied hundreds of millions of acres across the West, but their populations have dwindled due to a variety of threats, including industry activity, transmission lines, wildfires and invasive species.
Molver said the rollback of protections need to be stopped, prompting the request for a preliminary injunction filed Friday in Boise.
The groups — Western Watersheds Project, the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Prairie Hills Audubon Society — are represented by Advocates for the West, a nonprofit, public-interest law firm based in Boise.