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 In August 2009, most of the Wyoming Range and the adjacent Salt River Range (1.2 million acres) were withdrawn by Act of Congress from oil and gas development in the “Wyoming Range Legacy Act,” sponsored by most of Wyoming’s congressional delegation.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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More information

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Obama Administration Refuses to Reform Public-lands Grazing Fee

Fee is only $1.35 to graze a calf cow pair for a month.

Obama Administration Refuses to Reform Public-lands Grazing Fee
For immediate release – January 18, 2011

Contacts: Greta Anderson, Western Watersheds Project, 520.623.1878
Mark Salvo, WildEarth Guardians, 503.757.4221
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, 928.310.6713
Brent Fenty, Oregon Natural Desert Association, 541.330.2638
Ronni Egan, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, 970.385.9577

Tucson, Ariz. – After a lengthy delay, five conservation organizations finally received an answer today from the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture concerning the artificially low fee federal agencies charge for livestock grazing on public lands. Claiming higher priorities, both agencies declined to address the outdated grazing fee formula. The government’s response was prompted by a lawsuit filed by Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and Oregon Natural Desert Association.

Conservation organizations submitted a petition in 2005, asking the government to address the grazing fee formula and adjust the fee in order to cover the costs of the federal grazing program, which costs taxpayers at least $115 million dollars annually according to a Government Accountability Office report. Conservationists contend that Americans lose even more in compromised wildlife habitat, water quality, scenic views, and native vegetation.

“Today’s long-awaited answer was a huge disappointment,” said Greta Anderson, Arizona Director for Western Watersheds Project. “Year after year, we watch as the government gives a sweetheart deal to public lands ranchers at the expense of taxpayers and the environment. We had hoped the Obama Administration would have done better, but it’s business-as-usual for the western livestock industry.”

“Subsidizing the livestock industry at the cost of species, ecosystems, and taxpayers is plainly bad public land policy,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director with the Center for Biological Diversity, “Today’s choice to continue that policy is both a disappointment and a blight on the Obama administration’s environmental record.” Read the rest of this entry »

Opinion: Prominent Sawtooth Range peak, Mt. Heyburn, deserves a better name

The grand mountain ought not be burdened with the name of one of Idaho’s most short-sighted senators-

Weldon Heyburn, an Idaho U.S. Senator, back in days before the 17th Amendment (which the Tea Party now wants to repeal), is best known as a backward looking man who hated the creation of the U.S. Forest Service. Political Scientist John Freemuth suggests that Mt. Heyburn, a famous landmark of the fabled Sawtooth Range bears an improper name.

Renaming Mountains: Idaho’s Mt. Heyburn, For One, Deserves Better. “It’s time to change the legacy of a man who didn’t fight for the Sawtooths and stood in the way of the early Forest Service.” By John Freemuth, High Country News, Guest Writer.

I agree.

Final victory over Bush anti-public, anti-environment grazing regulations

It took a long time, but Western Watersheds and Advocates for the West seem to have a final victory

As a note, I am pleased to have been a plaintiff for the National Wildlife Federation in fighting this Bush era effort to exclude the public from having influence in grazing decisions, improperly grant property rights to livestock grazers, including water rights. Ralph Maughan
Below is the celebratory news release from WWP

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Western Watersheds Project - Working to Protect and Restore Western Watersheds and Wildlife
Online Messenger #184

Western Watersheds Project Victorious in Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals & Wins Another Federal Court Settlement Against the Forest Service on 386 Allotments in Seven Western States.
~ Jon Marvel
Jon Marvel

Friends,

Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Western Watersheds Project victory in Idaho District Court overturning the Bush Administration’s attempt to fundamentally change federal grazing regulations impacting hundreds of millions of acres of public lands in the West.  WWP was joined in this litigation by co-plaintiffs National Wildlife Federation, Idaho Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Idaho Conservation League, and famed Idaho conservationist and WWP Board member Dr. Ralph Maughan of Pocatello.

The Bush Era Grazing Regulations would have :

  • Removed public involvement from grazing decisions affecting public lands and wildlife.
  • Granted ranchers private property-interest in public livestock grazing installations and developments including fences, water developments, and buildings on public lands.
  • Granted ranchers water-rights on public lands currently held in trust by the American public.

This significant victory at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is a welcome smack-down of Bush anti-environmentalism.  The win emboldens public participation and accountability, stymies the most recent livestock industry land and water grab, and maintains public ownership of the West’s vast water resources to benefit wildlife and future generations.

Thanks to our attorneys Laird Lucas of Advocates for the West, Joe Feller of Arizona State University Law School and Johanna Wald of the Natural Resources Defense Council for their excellent legal representation.

WWP would also like to acknowledge the decades-long legal work on the issue of public lands ranching by the late Tom Lustig of the National Wildlife Federation.  Before his untimely death in May 2008 Tom provided invaluable legal counsel on this critical litigation.

tom lustig
Tom Lustig

Read the Decisionpdf

Western Western Watersheds Project Secures a Federal District Court Ordered Settlement with the Forest Service Halting the Agency’s End-Run Around the National Environmental Policy Act in Authorizing Livestock Grazing on 386 Grazing Allotments Across the West.

WWP was joined in this litigation by Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity, California Trout, Environmental Protection Information Center, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Los Padres Forest Watch, Sierra Forest Legacy, Sequoia Forestkeeper, Grand Canyon Trust, Utah Environmental Congress, Red Rock Forests, and Oregon Natural Desert Association.

This significant victory affects livestock grazing administration on National Forests in Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico and California and will ensure compliance with the nation’s most important environmental statute, NEPA.

Read the Court Orderpdf

Thanks to Laurie Rule of Advocates for the West’s Boise office for her stellar legal representation in this case.

Jon Marvel
Executive Director

Banner: Sawtooth National Forest, central Idaho © Lynne Stone

Clean Water

Public Land Ranchers’ latest attempt to steal water from the public was averted © Christopher McBride

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Ralph Maughan's Wildlife News

Investigation under way after ranchers build fence in national forest

New path essentially creates a new road near Bear Lake

Rancher admits that they departed from the approved route, which had an old fenceline already cut, because they didn’t want to go through the Forest Service process of getting it changed.

“It’s just completely ridiculous, the process they have,” Wamsley says.

The new route cuts a 40-65 foot swath through the forest for 3 1/2 miles.

Investigation under way after ranchers build fence in national forest
KSL.com (video included)

Chair of House Appropriations Committee calls Bush’s proposed Forest Service budget an “unmitigated disaster”

“The plan could mean the loss of more than 2,700 jobs – nearly 10 percent of the agency’s work force – as well as reductions in dozens of non-fire related programs, from road and trail maintenance to state assistance, land acquisition and recreation, lawmakers said.”

Forest Service could lose 2,700 jobs. By Matthew Daly. Associated Press in the Missoulian

Posted in Forest Service, politics, public lands, Trees Forests. Tags: , . Comments Off on Chair of House Appropriations Committee calls Bush’s proposed Forest Service budget an “unmitigated disaster”

Forest Service is writing rules to help privatize your lands in favor of outfitters

We could see it in the Idaho wolf population management plan, and now we see in the rules the Forest Service is developing regarding allocation of recreation on public lands.

Story in the Casper Star Tribune. Sweet deal for outfitters? By Brodie Farquhar.

Ever since the Pombo-Gibbons bill to give away our public lands to the mining companies was slapped down in December 2005, there has been an upsurge in interest in keeping and protecting our American public lands from the special interests who want to privatize (steal) them from us.

Because citizens are more watchful now, those who want to grab our lands are getting more sneaky. Senator Larry Craig has always been one of the biggest land-grabbers, and the Forest Service still marches to his tune because his former aide Mark Rey oversees the FS.

Update: thanks to Robert Hoskins, here are the proposed regulations