Megaloads hearing to enter third week

Folks continue to have plenty to say-

Here is the story on the coming third week of testimony, from the Spokesman-Review.

It seems to me that local folks willing to testify are mostly unhappy.  Here is a detailed story about past testimony in New West. New Idaho Megaloads Hearings Address More Than 200 Shipments. By Steve Bunk.

Despite efforts by the Idaho legislature to prevent people from suing over the plans of the lovable oil companies, two new lawsuits on the issue were recently filed.  One is by the National Wildlife Federation, the Montana Environmental Information Center, the Montana chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Missoula County Commission against the Montana State Department of Transportation. The other is by Idaho Rivers United. IRU is against the Forest Service. The Lochsa River and a corridor 1/4 mile on either side is part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and most of it is public national forest land. In fact the Lochsa was one of very first rivers protected, but the Forest Services is just standing by while the road right-of-way is being heavily chopped up for the wide and long loads.

National Parks to close, but BLM and National Forests open — Barker

Rocky Barker has a blog today about the upcoming status of public lands in the government shutdown.

National forests and BLM lands will remain open but national parks close. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman

Update. Looks like some deal was worked out late Friday night. Government remains open

If gov’t shuts down, what happens to visitors in the national parks?

Shutdown is likely. National Parks will be closed. Other public lands?

It looks more and more like a government shutdown of uncertain duration. Dept of Interior just made it clear that national parks and monuments will be closed down and “secured.”  I have to wonder what will happen come Saturday to all those currently inside of big parks like Yellowstone?

DOI said national wildlife refuges and BLM visitor facilities will be closed. I don’t know how they can bar entry to the hundreds of millions of acres of scattered BLM lands, but a lot of NWRs could have the access gates of major roads locked shut. National forests? That is the USDA. I haven’t read a statement from them.

We were on our way to some national parks, so I guess a lot of plans are being disrupted and people angry at the buffons in Congress. While others will no doubt disagree with me, I blame the tea party Republicans foremost for this totally avoidable problem of uncertain, but probably severe magnitude.

Federal firefighting promotes building in the wildland interface

So then, maybe it should stop?

Economist Ray Rasker spoke the obvious at University of Montana’s Conservation and Climate Change lecture series. He also talked a little politics. If there is no guarantee of the feeds throwing money to the wind to save houses along the national forest boundaries the counties might be a lot less willing to grant building permits there because the costs would fall on them.

Speaker: Rethink who pays costs of fighting fires to protect homes in woods. By Rob Chaney. Missoulian.

It would be nice to see this building reduced because of its impact on water quality, scenery, wildlife habitat. A lot of the nasty “remove or shot the deer, elk, bears, cougars, wolves” complaints come from people who live in the woods and their pooch gets got or their shrubbery eaten.

Natural gas drilling proposal in Wyoming Range gets 40,000 comments!!

Wyoming folks love the Wyoming Range and fear fracking-

An unprecedented number of comments came in on the Plains Exploration & Production Co.’s (PXP) plan for up to 136 gas wells south of Bondurant near Noble Basin. Most of the Wyoming and adjacent Salt River Range has been withdrawn from oil and gas leasing/drilling by act of Congress, but the PXP leases slipped through before the leasing was shut down by the Wyoming Range Legacy Act.

My experience in the Noble Basin and adjacent area is of some of the finest elk and moose country in Wyoming.  A domestic sheep beleagered bighorn sheep herd is nearby. The huge number of comments seem to have strengthened the views of new Wyoming governor Matt Mead on the subject of drilling, after maybe fracking the area.

Wyoming Range drilling project garners 40,000 comments. By Environment & Energy Daily in WyoFile.

New planning regs by Forest Service

Obama offers not-so-friendly to wildlife provisions?

After 40 public meetings that drew 3,000 participants and 25,000 comments, the Forest Services has issued new draft rules governing the entire national forest system. Conservation groups are focusing on what they consider to be changes to the wildlife portion that would give too much discretion to local forest supervisors about conserving and improving wildlife habitat.

National forests plan would expand local discretion over wildlife management. By Darryl Fears. Washington Post.

The fact that conservation groups are comparing the new rules unfavorably to the old rules from Ronald Reagan would seem to be telling as Reagan was no favorite of conservation groups. On the other hand as the Missoulian points out, “Forest Service looks to add recreation, wildlife, water to management principles. By Rob Chaney. Missoulian.

Maybe, the best initial comment was “The devil, or the angel, is in the details.” We will have to look more closely.

Here are the FS draft regulations. pdf

Forest Service rejects oil, gas leases in the Wyoming Range

Oil and gas development of the Wyoming Mountain Range is very unpopular-

Folks in NW Wyoming are rejoicing that the Bridger-Teton National Forest has announced the rejection of some of  the last of the requested natural gas leases in the Wyoming Mountain Range 20 miles NW of Pinedale (30 miles southeast of Jackson Hole). Forest rejects oil, gas leases in Wyo. Range. “[Forest supervisor] Buchanan follows [former supervisor] Hamilton’s draft, decides against development 35 miles south of Jackson.” By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Wyoming Range Legacy Act of 2009

The beautiful and wildlife rich mountain range’s protection from massive natural gas development has united different kinds of folks in northwestern Wyoming. In August 2009, most of the Wyoming Range and the adjacent Salt River Range (1.2 million acres) were withdrawn by Act of Congress from oil and gas development in the “Wyoming Range Legacy Act,” sponsored by most of Wyoming’s congressional delegation.

The Wyoming Range is still not entirely protected-

This does not mean the mountain range is entirely protected.  Among the very first gas wells developed in the general area were in the foothills of the Wyoming Range way back in the late 1970s at Riley Ridge, which has been massively industrialized.  As proposals to explore multiplied citizens organized to head off massive development of the entire mountainous area along the the Idaho/Wyoming border. Slightly less than 50,000 acres south of Bondurant slipped through — were leased — in the 1990s.

The Noble Basin drilling controversy-

Now PXP Energy wants to drill 136 wells in the area near Boundurant (referred to as the “Noble Basin” area) much to the outrage of local and non-so-local residents. At a hearing in Jackson, Wyoming last week about 98% of the testimony opposed the Noble Basin development. 1/20/11. Noble Basin sparks anger. Jackson Hole Daily. The advantage lies with PXP, however, because the act of leasing public land is the most critical stage of oil and gas development.  That’s because a lease creates a private property right that can only be extinguished by purchasing it back.  PXP’s drilling probably can’t be stopped by any action except public opinion or very restrictive stipulations imposed in the actual drilling.

Citizens can send their comments on regulation of the drilling to the Bridger-Teton National Forest, supervisor Jacqueline Buchanan, P.O. Box 1888, Jackson, WY 83001. Comments can be emailed to comments-intermtn-bridger-teton-big-piney@fs.fed.us with the subject line “Eagle Prospect and Noble Basin MDP DEIS.” The plan is available at http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/btnf/projects/. Comments are due Mar. 10.

Not all opposed to drilling the range-

Of course, the oil and gas industry supports drilling the area as does Wyoming’s lone member of the U.S. House, Republican Cynthia Lummis.  Lummis, while nominally a U.S. Representative, in practice pretty much represents oil rather than the state.

We have posted quite a few articles on protecting the Wyoming Range, but the blog hasn’t shown much interest.

I think this might be because the very name, Wyoming Range, might prompt those not from Wyoming to think the article is about rangeland in Wyoming rather than a large chain of mountains which are full of wildlife, especially elk. The range also has a small and declining bighorn sheep herd that is constantly threatened by disease from domestic sheep grazing. Western Watersheds has been trying to improve the livestock grazing in the area through the organization’s Wyoming Office.

As some have mentioned, it might also be that the area is psychologically hidden because the Tetons, Yellowstone, and the Wind River Mountains immediately come to mind when folks think of the state of Wyoming.

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