Sierra Club Statement on Fifth Circuit Ruling on Lease Sale 261


Ian Brickey,

WASHINGTON, D.C.-- Today, a federal appellate court dismissed a legal challenge brought by environmental groups seeking to block an offshore oil and gas lease sale that threatens the continued existence of a critically endangered whale species.

The decision out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit allows the Department of the Interior to proceed with a lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico, and removes protective mitigation for the endangered Rice’s whale. Under the court’s order, the lease sale, referred to as Lease Sale 261, would proceed within the next 37 days. The sale could force the Rice’s whale, the only whale species located entirely within U.S. territorial waters and whose habitat overlaps with the proposed lease sale, into extinction. The Rice’s whale population numbers as few as 50 individuals, and the loss of even a single whale could drive the species to extinction.

In response, Devorah Ancel, senior attorney with Sierra Club’s environmental law program, released the following statement:

“This is obviously a disappointing decision. With this ruling, the court is allowing this lease sale to proceed without crucial mitigation measures that would protect what is quite possibly the most critically endangered whale species on earth. The loss of even a single Rice’s whale could drive the species to the brink of extinction, and selling off its habitat for oil and gas development will only further harm this rare species.”

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit