The panel reversed in part the district court’s summary judgment in favor of defendants in an action challenging under the National Environmental Policy Act a wind-energy development project on the ground that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s environmental review of the project did not adequately address impacts to the greater sage grouse. The panel held that BLM’s review did not adequately assess baseline sage grouse numbers during winter at the proposed Echanis wind energy facility in Harney County, Oregon. The panel also held that the BLM’s error was not harmless. Accordingly, the panel reversed the district court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of the BLM, Harney County, and Columbia Energy Partners, the project developer, as to that issue.
The panel also held that because plaintiffs did not bring the issue of inter-population or genetic connectivity between sage grouse populations to the BLM’s attention during the environmental review process, the issue was not exhausted and is not now subject to review.