Buffalo, Wy – The Bureau of Land Management has set aside about one-million acres in the Powder River Basin as sage grouse focus areas. It's part of a four-year effort to revise the Buffalo Field Office management plan and balance wildlife protections with energy development. The B-L-M's Chris Hanson says oil and gas companies cannot drill more than one well per 640 acres unless they can prove the development will not harm sage grouse populations. "We believe the majority of coal-bed methane development will happen outside of these areas. So we do not believe it will have a significant effect on the economic viability of the C-B-M industry."
Hanson says the B-L-M has started approving permits in the Powder River Basin after a brief moratorium in May. He expects the government to approve between two- and three-thousand permits every year during the revision process.