BLM focuses on drilling at expense of wildlife, critics charge

Wildlife biologists at the Bureau of Land Management office in Pinedale, Wyo., are finding their talents put to unusual use: reviewing drilling-permit requests. Western Wyoming has been a natural-gas drilling mecca for the last five years, during which its populations of mule deer and breeding male sage grouse have declined by roughly half. “The BLM is pushing the biologists to be what I call ‘biostitutes,’ rather than allow them to be experts in the wildlife they are supposed to be managing,” says Steve Belinda, who quit his BLM job in protest. An internal evaluation three years ago showed that the BLM spent about one-third of its allocated conservation money on other programs. The oil and gas industry was granted 13,070 permits by the BLM in the last two years, but drilled only 5,844 wells — yet the BLM is charging ahead to issue more permits. Everything about this story is depressing except the word “biostitutes,” which rules.