From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 34 - November 20, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Winter range exceptions granted

by Cat Urbigkit

The Bureau of Land Management has already granted exceptions to its wildlife winter range stipulations, which kicked in on Nov. 15 and are generally slated to continue through April 30. According to the agency, by last Friday, Nov. 14, exceptions were granted for 26 mineral-related projects. All of the projects were due to last from one to nine extra days, but the majority of the exceptions were for a maximum of five days.

The purpose of the exceptions varied, from completion work in the Tip Top and Mesa areas, to rigging down and moving a rig on the Mesa.

The BLM denied two other requests for exceptions, and the operators withdrew three more requests. In addition, four other requests are pending. Three of the requests are from Questar, which has proposed winter-long drilling from a multiple-wellpad. The exception requests cover the drilling and road use associated with the project. A fourth exception request is also pending, this one from the Wildlife Conservation Society, which proposes to monitor antelope movement on the Mesa for four days each month from January through April. The organization has requested an exception to the Mesa winter travel closure that takes effect in January through the remainder of the winter.

The Questar winter drilling proposal has raised the ire of environmental groups in the region. The groups submitted comments to the BLM in opposition to the proposal, declaring that the fox appeared to be guarding the henhouse.

The granting of winter range exceptions simply proves that the BLM is in the chokehold of industrial interests, according to a press release from the environmental groups. In the release, Peter Aengst of The Wilderness Society stated: The rules the BLM has put in place to protect winter wildlife appear to be merely hollow words. Of the 311 requests (2002-2003 winter season) by industry to be free from restrictions that protect wildlife in the Upper Green, the BLM has only denied one, thus demonstrating the chokehold the oil and gas industry has over the Wyoming BLM."

The BLM has not yet issued its decision on Questar's winter drilling proposal.

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