‘This Is Our Forest’

By Lisa McGee

DON’T MISS THIS EXCELLENT VIDEO created by High Country News called “This Is Our Forest.”

The video accompanies an important story written by Emilene Ostlind about a proposal to develop a 136-well oil and gas field in the Upper Hoback Basin of the Wyoming Range in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

The video features local hunters and provides a beautiful sense of what makes this area so special to local families—and why development would be a travesty for the Basin.

The Wyoming Range Legacy Act, which was signed into law in 2009, prevents future oil and gas leasing on 1.2 million acres of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. It does not, however, protect the forest from proposals to develop the 77,000 acres of oil and gas leases in the range that were issued prior to passage of the legislation.

The current 136-well proposal implicates some of these existing leases, which are owned by Plains Exploration & Production Company, or PXP.

For more information and to join the grassroots effort to protect the Upper Hoback Basin, please visit the Citizens for the Wyoming Range website.

Together we can work for a solution that benefits both residents and PXP.

As I’ve noted in previous blogs, the Legacy Act envisions and would facilitate this best-case scenario. Companies like PXP can sell or donate existing leases—and because these leases fall within the boundary of the Legacy Act, they would be retired, and never leased again.

This is a solution that respects the financial interests of the company and would protect the backcountry and wildlife character of the forest that so many of us value.

This type of business decision is not without precedent. At the urging of citizens, legislation similar to the Wyoming Range Legacy Act was also passed for the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana.

Several companies that held valid, existing oil and gas leases agreed to sell and retire their leases, while other companies donated leases outright. Other leases have recently been retired outside of Glacier National Park.

We believe these examples from Montana can serve as a model for the Bridger-Teton.

For more information, feel free to contact me at lisa@wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org or visit the Citizens for the Wyoming Range website: www.wyomingrange.org.

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