From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 45 - February 5, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Protection consensus achieved

by Cat Urbigkit

House District 22 Representative Monte Olsen announced that environmental interests and natural gas industry representatives have apparently reached agreement on protection of 2,000 acres of public land in the Trapper's Point wildlife migration corridor.

Fred Palmer of Shell Exploration and Production Company said that during a conference call last week with some members of the Trapper's Point Working Group, "We agree on approximately 2,000 acres of protection for the core bottleneck area."

Palmer said this core area includes 640 acres where no leasing would be allowed, buffered by 1,600 acres of no-surface occupancy, as long as there were assurances that the NSO designation would be strong and not easily waived or exempted. Palmer said disagreement remains over another 160 acres in the northeast portion of Section 28 and another 80 acres in Section 27.

Kelly Roadifer of the Bureau of Land Management said it's unlikely that her office would be able to advance a proposal for such a large area of NSO. She said most NSOs are no wider than about a quarter-mile. Anything larger, the companies cannot access the natural gas from off-site, creating a defacto no-lease area in which development is precluded.

Palmer pointed out that there will continue to be improvements in technology that will increase the distance reserves can be tapped into from off-site development.

Roadifer also pointed out that NSOs also cover all other surface use, including campgrounds, fencing, water tanks, "anything that would physically occupy the surface," unless specific exceptions are written into the NSO.

Dru Bower of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming explained that with an NSO, "Getting a waiver for that is virtually impossible."

Meredith Taylor of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition asked if the industry would agree to no leasing rather than the NSO, to which Bower said, "No ... It's not going to happen.

Bower, who has taken the environmental group's proposals to her industry officials on several occasions as part of the Trapper's Point process, said firmly, "All communication will probably break down on this if I have to go back and ask for 2,200 acres of no lease."

Price repeatedly expressed concern about the NSO, stating that he would agree to it only if livestock use and facilities for livestock management were specifically exempted from the NSO. Palmer and Bower agreed that the NSO should be written to specifically address only mineral development and not other uses.

Bernie Holz of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department pointed out that a consensus has been reached for the protection of 2,000 acres of the migration bottleneck, concluding, "With that sort of consensus, we've got what we need to protect Trapper's Point. ... Gosh, didn't everybody get what they wanted?"

Taylor said the group should now begin to look at a protection program for the flanks of the bottleneck, with Linda Baker of the Upper Green River Valley Coalition agreeing.

Bower pointed out that when the group first began meeting, she made it clear that her industry isn't interested in participating if all that was going to be focused on was no leasing. She asked if once again Taylor and the environmental groups would be pushing for no leasing, to which Taylor responded, "All stipulations should be on the table."

Olsen stepped in, "Let's not polarize ourselves so quickly."

Baker said if 900 wells are allowed on the Mesa, there will be a conflict with wildlife and wildlife will still need to travel through the area, perhaps through the areas on either side of the Mesa, the river corridors. She suggested protective efforts be directed to those areas, as a place to allow the wildlife access.

Olsen asked the group how it felt about expanding its efforts out from the Trapper's Point bottleneck, for which is was formed to address.

Price said his interest was in addressing the bottleneck, adding, "I don't want to be part of a group that leverages itself out to address other areas."

Baker and Taylor continued to push for the group to address a larger area.

Holz said the Trapper's Point Working Group was formed to address a very narrowly defined area. He said any expanded area would require an additional time commitment and a larger group of effected interests.

Olsen called the meeting to a close, suggesting that the group correspond with each other via e-mail to discuss the expansion idea. Regardless of that, the group is slated to meet again in March to finish its discussions on protection of the bottleneck itself.

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