From 2002-2012 (ten years) the BLM Ely District in Nevada leased 3,952,231 acres for oil & gas exploration and development. Think about it. Almost 4 million acres in only one BLM District in Nevada. This isn’t counting the acres leased in other BLM districts in Nevada, or in other states.
Fracking requires enormous quantities of water. Estimates put water usage at between 3 and 5 million gallons per fracking of a single well, and each well can be fracked several times.
A recent Elko Daily Free Press article titled “Drought causes BLM to reduce grazing, other targeted actions,” stated that “In Nevada, about 60 percent of the state has been in severe or extreme drought since January.”
The article continued with “‘Since last fall and winter, we have been working with grazers across the West in anticipation of tough conditions related to drought,’ said Neil Kornze, BLM principal deputy director…’
‘As drought conditions continue, wild horses, livestock, and wildlife that rely on rangeland forage and water will face extremely challenging conditions that may leave them in very poor condition. We are taking action to address these situations as quickly and as effectively as we can, but our options are increasingly limited by conditions on the land,’ he added.”
Apparently, the BLM’s options don’t include any thought of curtailing the lease/sale of public lands for oil & gas exploration and development or for mining, which use a lot of water.
On June 28, 2013, the BLM Ely District office issued a Preliminary Environmental Assessment for their upcoming December 2013 Oil and Gas Lease Sale, which is offering 399,873 acres of public lands in their district.
Then, only a few days later, around July 1 or 2, the Ely district started hauling water out to the Seaman Herd Area for wild horses there, because the seeps were low and there wasn’t enough water for the horses. Rosemary Thomas, the Ely District Manager, said that although the stallions and dry mares seemed to be doing okay, the wet mares and foals weren’t doing well.
She said Ben Noyes, the Ely District Wild Horse & Burro Specialist, has been putting water in troughs and tubs (but the horses won’t drink out of them) and even rigged a hose and buried it out of sight, to refill the seeps. Ben has been spending days and even nights out there with infrared binoculars to see if the wild horses are drinking. A USDA APHIS veterinarian just went out there to check the body condition of the horses. But the BLM may have to do an emergency helicopter roundup.
Now, knowing this, and knowing that the BLM has been aware of drought conditions since last January, let’s look at a rough map of a small area of the land that was put up for an oil & gas lease/sale on June 28, within and around the Seaman Herd Area:
Now let’s look at a rough map that also includes the 2011 and 2012 oil & gas lease sales around the Seaman Herd Area:
If there is a drought, and there isn’t enough water, why would the BLM sale lease land for a use that could use a lot of water? (If you were down to your last $2, would you run out and buy a yacht?)
Here’s how that 399,873 acres (being sold out from under the public) breaks down:
- Newark Valley – 6,175 acres
- N. Railroad Valley – 710 acres
- Garden Valley – 158,924 acres
- White River Valley – 107,581 acres
- Jakes Valley – 12,159 acres
- Maverick – 21,401 acres
- Butte Valley – 2,184 acres
- Steptoe Valley – 72,681 acres
- Antelope Valley – 18,058 acres
While Nevada BLM districts have been hauling water to wild horses, it’s important to look at the “multiple uses” that are the real water guzzlers, that are allowed to continue without limitation.
The BLM’s mismanagement of the public lands seems to not only be adding to the drought crisis, but to be causing much of it, which will affect not only wild horses, but wildlife, livestock and irrigation.
Send your comments on the proposed lease sale by July 29, 2013 to the Ely District Office, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Other Sources: 2012 oil & gas lease sale:
2011 oil & gas lease sale: