For immediate release
Steve Kilpatrick, Wyoming Wildlife Federation (307) 413-7249
Amy Rathke, National Outdoor Leadership School (307) 335-2262
Ron Hansen, Trout Unlimited member and owner Wind River Outdoor Company (307)330-5770
Forest Service to study Wyoming Range parcels
Agency announces start of report to look at oil and gas on controversial parcels
Big Piney -- The Forest Service announced its intent today to further study the impacts of oil and gas in sensitive habitats located in the Wyoming Range.
The Notice of Intent was published Friday in the Federal Register and signals the agency will be gathering information for a supplemental environmental impact statement to review the impact oil and gas development could have on approximately 44,000 acres outside of Bondurant.
The parcels are the same that drew the attention of sportsmen nearly a decade ago. Since then, 1.2 million acres were protected in the Wyoming Range from further leasing. However, the question over what to do with the leases in this area remains.
“We think this is a very important step in the process and want to voice our support for the Forest Service moving this along,” said Steve Kilpatrick of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation. “This is a prime piece of country for hunters and anglers and it generates more than five million dollars in revenue per year for the state. It’s no coincidence sportsmen have stuck with the fight to protect the Wyoming Range for so many years. It’s critical we get this one right.”
The leases sit on important lands for sportsmen - mule deer migration routes and stop over areas, critical habitat for a stressed moose herd and sensitive cutthroat trout species. When the Forest Service first offered these leases for sale in 2005 and 2006, it ignited a backlash from a broad cross-section of Wyoming interests, spurring a unified grassroots campaign that culminated in the passage of the Wyoming Range Legacy Act in 2009—federal legislation that declared 1.2 million acres of national forest land off limits to future oil and gas leasing.
"This process has been a long haul, there's no doubt. But we're hoping to see the Forest Service carry out the decision the public wants, and soon," said Gary Cukjati, National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Rocky Mountain Director. "The people of Wyoming have made it clear how important this range is to them. We'd like to see these final 44,000 acres withdrawn from leasing for good."
Most recently, 58,000 acres of leases were bought out by the Trust for Public Lands for $8.75 million. The leases were then retired, an action praised by many including Wyoming’s Governor, Matt Mead. Those leases sit directly adjacent to the 44,000 acres now in question.
“Wyoming and this country need energy development. There’s no argument on that issue. However, one must ask, given the limited production amounts and size of the area proposed, are the risks of developing worth adversely impacting this unique and wonderful area?” said Ron Hansen, long-time Trout Unlimited member and owner of Wind River Outdoor Company and Wind River Troutfitters. “This is one of those areas where we need to make a thoughtful decision to not develop given the rich wildlife habitat and species that occupy the area and given the long history of trying to keep this unique area intact for the benefit of sportsmen and women for generations to come.”
The public will have an opportunity to comment on this project when the new Draft Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement is released, expected in October of this year.