From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 37 - December 11, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Trapper's Point group negotiates

by Cat Urbigkit

The third meeting of the informal Trapper's Point Working Group got underway in Daniel Monday morning with the announcement that the Bureau of Land Management would like a letter of recommendation from the group before the end of the week.

BLM Pinedale manager Prill Mecham attended the session, explaining that she was there to listen to the discussion, but did want a letter from the group this week. She explained the group's recommendations for management measures would help to conserve the Trapper's Point wildlife migration route.

Mecham explained, "The BLM is under an extremely tight timeframe," for getting each phase of the work done on revising its Pinedale Resource Management Plan. She said the BLM held a meeting last week with its cooperators to begin forming the preliminary preferred alternative for the RMP's environmental impact statement. The document needs to be ready for a complete internal agency review by Jan. 5, 2004, but with the holidays approaching, staff time available is decreased.

Thus, Mecham said, the working group's recommendation for Trapper's Point needs to arrive in her office this week for consideration, as she wants her staff to complete the preliminary preferred alternative within the next week.

Lloyd Dorsey of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition asked where the pressure to complete the RMP revision in such a prompt manner is coming from.

Mecham explained that the Pinedale RMP is one of the agency's time-sensitive planning documents, slated to be completed by next October. That means that the draft plan is slated to be released for public review by Feb. 9.

At the group's last meeting, Dru Bower of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming presented an industry proposal to protect the migration bottleneck, which included no leasing of 320 acres, a no-surface occupancy zone buffering the no-lease zone, and protective stipulations in adjacent areas. That proposal, viewed as too minimal by the environmental groups involved, prompted the groups to offer a counter proposal on Monday.

Linda Baker of the Upper Green River Valley Coalition presented the proposal, explaining that protection of Trapper's Point "is part of a much larger package of protection" being advocated. She explained that the estimated 10,000 acres in her proposal consist of only about 1 percent of the BLM's Pinedale Resource Area. She said that protection of Trapper's Point "is necessary and integral, but it's not sufficient" to maintaining mule deer and pronghorn antelope herds in this region.

"We have to err on the side of caution," Baker said, recommending that at a minimum, about 2,000 acres, including Sections 28, 29, 33, 34 and 3, be deemed off-limits to mineral leasing. Within a much larger buffer area to the north and south of the no-leasing acreage, no leasing would be preferred, but another option would be imposing a no-surface occupancy stipulation, Baker explained.

When asked her view about the counter-proposal, Bower said, "I'm disappointed," reminding the group that when it first began meeting a few months ago, she specifically requested that the proposals be reasonable, adding: "This isn't."

She said the environmental groups' calling for 10,000 acres to be off limits isn't reasonable, and she noted that leasing doesn't equal development.

Bower also pointed out that there are other issues, including those associated with recreation and other human disturbance, that impact migrating big game animals as well.

"No leasing isn't the answer to all of the problems," Bower said.

Realizing that the group was somewhat polarized with the proposal and counterproposal led its members to approach a map on the wall, trying to find a possible compromise for agreement in order to get a preliminary recommendation to the BLM before the end of the week. Baker narrowed the field of focus to an area about 2,000 acres in size in which the environmental groups firmly feel that no leasing should be allowed. Bower agreed that she would take the 2,000-acre proposal back to her industry for consideration, to see if some sort of an agreement can be reached by Friday on this acreage, with the understanding that the group would continue to meet and work on protective stipulations for a broader area of the bottleneck. However, these stipulations would not include any further acreage where no leasing would be proposed, Tom Darin of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance assured Bower.

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