From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 35 - November 24, 2005
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Residents protest easing of restrictions

by Cat Urbigkit

The Pinedale Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management received dozens of letters of comment on the proposal to eliminate winter stipulations on the Pinedale Anticline, for which the agency is currently preparing a supplemental environmental impact statement. Most of the letters were in opposition to the proposal and many came from residents of Sublette County.

Upper Green River Valley Coalition, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Wilderness Society, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, National Wildlife Federaation and Wyoming Wildlife Federation joined in a letter of comment, maintaining that the BLM should not waive stipulations “without substantial evidence that they are ineffective or unnecessary.”

The letter continued, “The apparent removal of season stipulations for all species and all habitat types is an extreme, precedent-setting threat to all public lands and public resources with known oil and gas potential.”

Pinedale's Paul Hagenstein quoted “Humpty Dumpty” in his letter, followed by: “My backyard is the Humpty Dumpty that is being broken into little pieces to profit the oil and gas industry. We will be left with the problem of putting our landscape back together again.

Rancher Albert Sommers's letter said while he supports the BLM's decision to prepare a supplemental EIS, he does not support the elimination of seasonal restrictions on the Mesa or of wildlife stipulations on the Pinedale Anticline. Sommers cited concern for wildlife: “The deer, antelope and sage grouse should be given a break during the winter, when they are facing weather conditions which deplete their reserves.” Sommers also expressed concern that dropping restrictions designed to protect sage grouse could be used as a factor to justify listing the species as a federally protected species.

Sommers noted that operators propose to fund numerous wildlife studies, adding, “Wildlife studies may enhance our knowledge of species, but I haven't seen the reams of paper generated by these studies ever replace the habitat lost to development.”

Not all letters were in opposition to the proposal. The county commissions of both Lincoln and Sublette counties wrote letters in support of the proposal, as did industry-oriented companies and interest groups.

Big Piney's John Linn said that he feels “very strongly that the restrictions on winter drilling were never and are not now justified.” He said that lifting the stipulations to allow year-round work “is the right way to alleviate the undesirable conditions and will also help our energy-starved nation fulfill our needs for jobs and the natural gas to run our country.”

Recent public meetings on this subject drew few people to sessions in Marbleton and Jackson, but drew a crowd of opponents to the Pinedale session last week.

The BLM is now completing the first phase of the EIS process. This was the public scoping phase from which the BLM will now proceed with development of alternatives as it prepares a draft supplemental EIS, which is due for release to the public in May, followed by a 30-day comment period, with the final decision expected to be issued next fall.

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