Judge orders US to revive public role in energy lease sales

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered the reinstatement of public participation opportunities in oil and gas lease sales in Western states that were largely eliminated by the Trump administration to speed up sales.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush in a Friday ruling sided with environmentalists who sued in April out of concerns that upcoming sales could harm a struggling bird species.

The ruling covers sales beginning this December involving hundreds of thousands acres in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada and Utah. The states are home to greater sage grouse, a ground-dwelling bird that’s seen its numbers plummet due to development, disease and other factors.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management in January made it optional to take public comment on sales and shortened the time in which formal protests could be filed.

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