News / 

Oil, gas project OK'd on Nevada sage grouse land

By Martin Griffith, Associated Press | Posted - Jun. 21, 2014 at 7:50 p.m.

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Federal land managers have approved an oil and gas project involving hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in a portion of northeast Nevada identified by state wildlife officials as essential habitat for the imperiled greater sage grouse.

The Bureau of Land Management signed a decision record earlier this month on Noble Energy Inc.'s proposal to conduct oil and gas exploration drilling around Tabor Flats near Wells in Elko County.

The Houston-based company plans to drill a maximum of 20 wells on a combination of public and private lands. Slightly more than half of the 39,445-acre project area is on public land.

"Although this project does occur within both priority and general sage grouse habitat, the analysis has determined there will not be a significant impact to sage grouse as a result," bureau spokesman Christopher Rose told The Associated Press. "Multiple environmental protection measures and project design features are included to reduce the impacts of this project."

Nevada Department of Wildlife officials think the area's sage grouse can be adequately protected through the measures, including restrictions on construction activities and traffic during the bird's mating season, spokesman Chris Healy said. State wildlife officials were consulted during the bureau's environmental review of the project.

"There's no doubt we have concerns, but we also understand multiple use (of public land) seems to be the thing everybody is striving for," Healy said. "The key thing is we're not just giving input and going away. We'll be actively monitoring it and be part of the process to do the best we can to protect them."

But Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said fracking in many areas of the country has resulted in an expansion of oil and gas development and habitat fragmentation for rare and endangered species.

The greater sage grouse is being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Such a listing could prompt restrictions on gas and oil exploration, mining, grazing and other outdoor activities across 11 Western states where the species is found.

"The area of this proposed project has been identified by the Nevada Department of Wildlife as essential and irreplaceable habitat for the greater sage grouse," Mrowka said in a statement. "The last thing these rare, spectacular birds need is gas development in their habitat."

Fracking, which is relatively new to Nevada, also poses a threat to human health, Mrowka said.

Oil and gas developers employ hydraulic fracturing to boost production. The technique pumps water, fine sand and chemicals into wells to fracture open oil- and gas-bearing rock deposits.

The process has been controversial amid concern that fracking gone wrong could taint groundwater with hydrocarbons or fracking fluids containing toxic substances.

Noble Energy officials have said fracking is a proven technology to safely develop Nevada's oil and gas.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Martin Griffith


    Catch up on the top news and features from, sent weekly.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast