Photo by Lloyd Dorsey


By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
January 26, 2011

THE FOREST WILL NOT ALLOW DEVELOPMENT ON 44,720 ACRES of contested oil and gas leases in the Wyoming Range, officials announced Tuesday.

Bridger-Teton National Forest supervisor Jacque Buchanan announced her decision with a statement, which sportsmen and conservation groups hailed as a victory in the quest to protect Wyoming’s most important wild places from energy development.

The leases were proposed 35 miles southeast of Jackson in Sublette County.

“After considering all the alternatives, and the environmental impacts associated with each, I have determined this is the best course of action,” Buchanan said. “No single factor led me to this decision. Rather, it was the combination of the sensitivity and values of the area, the magnitude of other activities currently underway or planned with potentially cumulative impacts, and the concerns of citizens, organizations and other agencies.”

The Bridger-Teton originally set aside the land for leasing in 1990, and the BLM offered lease sales on the 44,720 acres in 2005 and 2006. Conservation groups and sportsmen appealed that decision to the Interior Board of Land Appeals, claiming the BLM justified the sale using outdated information.

As a result, the BLM in 2009 rejected 23 leases on roughly half of the affected area.

Coalition applaudes decision

The decision to preserve the land is “fantastic” said Lisa McGee of the Wyoming Outdoor Council, and was responsive to the “diverse coalition of Wyoming people who worked together to pass the Wyoming Range Legacy Act.

“People value the Bridger-Teton for its wildlife, scenery and backcountry recreational opportunities,” she said. “Oil and gas leasing threatens those uses and values. As we’ve learned with the Hoback [PXP] project, once a place is leased, development is not easily curtailed. The decision not to lease in this case is absolutely the right one. The Forest Service should be applauded.”


West Edge