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 Most of the Wyoming and adjacent Salt River Range has been withdrawn from oil and gas leasing/drilling by act of Congress, but the PXP leases slipped through before the leasing was shut down by the Wyoming Range Legacy Act.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.

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 In August 2009, most of the Wyoming Range and the adjacent Salt River Range (1.2 million acres) were withdrawn by Act of Congress from oil and gas development in the “Wyoming Range Legacy Act,” sponsored by most of Wyoming’s congressional delegation.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

Wyoming Range Legacy Act didn’t protect 77,000 acres of the Wyoming Range. New approach to be tried?

A lot of folks thought the tremendous victory of The Wyoming Range Legacy Act signed by President Obama last year stopping new oil or gas leasing on 1.2 million acres in the Wyoming Range and Salt River Ranges put the drilling to rest, but no.  77,000 acres in the wildlife rich NW corner of the Wyoming Range had already been leased.

Because the government creates private property rights (out of public land) when it leases, to stop drilling an oil company has to give up or sell the leases.  As a result a number of conservation interests are seeking to try a buy out.

Saving these mountain ranges from drilling has been an issue that generally unites conservationists of all types, including hunting groups. May this rare success continue!

Story: Groups consider drilling lease buyouts in Wyoming Range. By Mead Gruver. Associated Press.

Posted in mountain ranges, oil and gas, Wildlife Habitat. Tags: , , , . Comments Off on Groups consider drilling lease buyouts in Wyoming Range

Protection from drilling proposed by Forest Service for 44,000 more acres in Wyoming Range

It looks like the last bit of the Wyoming Range is going to be withdrawn from natural gas drilling-

1.2 million acres were protected in 2009 in the Omnibus Public Land Bill’s “Wyoming Range Legacy Act”. If you have never visited the Wyoming Range, it might be worth your while to drop another trip to the Tetons and head south a bit.

Conservationists, sportsmen agree with plan. Bridger-Teton wants no drilling on 44,000 acres. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Posted in Forest Service, oil and gas, public lands, Wildlife Habitat. Tags: , . Comments Off on Protection from drilling proposed by Forest Service for 44,000 more acres in Wyoming Range

Photos of Wyoming Range

Protection of the Wyoming Range was one of the big achievements of 2009-

B. Henrie, who posts here under another name, provided the blog with some fine photos of these splendid mountains. He took them on a Sept. deer hunt. No doubt they are now covered with snow.

A million acres was withdrawn from oil and gas development by Congress in the Omnibus public lands bill supported by the Wyoming delegation.  Believe me these steep mountains so full of deer and elk would have been all slashed up. Thanks!

coffinmt1

Toward Mt. Coffin from Wyoming Peak. View is to the north. Copyright B. Henrie

West from Wyoming Peak

West across the Greys River and Salt River Range from Wyoming Peak. Copyright B. Henrie

 

Obama signs the omnibus public lands bill

Channels Bush and adds a presidential signing statement-
Updates to 4-2. State specific information added at end of post

There was much rejoicing as the President signed the Omnibus Public Lands Bill, usually and incorrectly called the giant new “wilderness bill.”

It does add 2-million acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System, but it does many other things, including protect 1.2 million acres of the Salt River Range, Wyoming Range, and Commissary Ridge areas in Western Wyoming from oil and gas leasing (and hence drilling). These areas will not be managed as Wilderness, although as a result of the bill, large parts of them will remain roadless. Drilling in these scenic, but unstable, wildlife rich areas would cause immense devastation. They still suffer from excessive livestock grazing.

The bill also designates new Wild and Scenic Rivers, including the first in dry Utah, where building dams on rivers has been a tradition. To win support for the bill, money was provided to study the rebuilding of the Teton Dam in Eastern Idaho, which failed catastrophically in 1976 when it was first being filled after a long fight with conservation groups who predicted it would not hold water. I should note that fighting this dam was my first major conservation issue.

There are 500,000 of new official Wilderness in Idaho and 316 miles of wild and scenic rivers  included in the larger Owyhee Canyonlands bill. This bill has sparked conflict among conservation groups, not because it designates Wilderness, but because it also releases to livestock development a number of roadless areas, plus other provisions. I have heard that the bill did undergo some improvement in the U.S. Senate when it was “cleaned up” by Committee Staff.

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Giant omnibus public lands bill to be voted on soon in new Congress

Looks like Harry Reid is keeping his promise to bring the bill back up-

This is a really big thing, much larger than the two parochial stories below, even though a lot of it deals with “cannonball parks.”

Here is s.22, ” The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009.” This replaces the 2008 version I had up. They are debating it this weekend. Republicans are filibustering.

Last Congress the omnibus measure passed the House, but failed due to Senator Coburn’s filibuster at the last minute in the U.S. Senate. Majority Leader Reid said he would bring it up again without having the bills inside this “omnibus container” having to start at square one back in the committees of the two chambers of Congress.

Regarding Idaho, this contains the controversial Owhyee Initiative.