From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 7, Number 4 - April 19, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Public heated by proposed drilling

by Tiffany Turner

On April 11, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held an open house and public hearing concerning the Resource Management Plan (RMP) they are in the process of creating for the Pinedale area.

The meeting was held in the Sublette County Library, with the open house running from 3-6 p.m. and the public hearing following.

Meetings of the same accord were also held in Rock Springs and Marbleton at other times during the week.

These hearings were held to obtain public opinions and concerns that, according to Marty Griffith, Deputy State Director for the BLM, “will be taken into consideration for the final plan.”

The Pinedale RMP, according to the BLM Web site, will “provide future direction for managing over 900,000 acres of federal surface estate lands and over 1.1 million acres of federal mineral estate lands in Sublette, Lincoln and Fremont counties.”

The plan will be instated to govern and guide policies and actions in these areas. Many issues are covered under this new plan, including the development of local energy resources and minerals, management of vegetation, management of wildlife habitats and air and water quality. Due to the impact and importance of these factors on the area, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has also been released to coincide with the RMP.

The Pinedale open house and public hearing brought upwards of 40 local property owners and organizations together to learn more about the proposal and voice their fears and beliefs concerning the different alternatives set forth by the BLM for the RMP. With such a large amount of the community publicly addressing the BLM, it was necessary for each speaker’s testimony be restricted to five minutes. The main topic of controversy is the proposed drilling and leasing in the Upper Hoback.

Taking the scenic defense for the area, Tucker Smith, a landowner near the Hoback Basin, was the first to take the podium. Smith, in combination with his neighbor, has placed conservation easements on 1,100 acres and has recently purchased 78 additional acres to do the same.

“How much does Sublette County have to sacrifice?” Smith asked.

Smith feels since the Rim is either the first or last thing a visitor sees driving through Sublette County, the current moratorium on oil leasing in the area should remain in effect. Smith does not wish to see leasing on the Rim or in the Upper Green.

“This is a personal comment, but it can and will be backed up by facts, photos and maps,” he said.

Ron Ryne, next to speak, claimed his largest issue was the BLMs “play on words and maps.” He asked the department to be more straightforward in presenting their facts. In addition to this request, Ryne asked the BLM to more thoroughly consider the water table and run-off. Due to the enormous water needs for the project and pollution it would cause, he feels that disturbing the Upper Green would cause problems with the water quality to Lake Mead affecting the populace all along the way. Ryne brought attention to the impact it would have on Pinedale itself.

“Think of the kids,” he said. “We’re not prepared for that and I don’t think we want to be. It is the BLM’s responsibility to care for all resources, not just the expensive ones.”

Linda Baker of the Upper Green River Valley Coalition also spoke at the hearing. She feels the areas’ “enviable quality of life” should outweigh the monetary compensation of the drilling and leasing. Baker stated that allowing this habitat to be destroyed would be “setting a dangerous precedent” and the BLM is “disregarding the complexity” of the area.

The evening continued in much the same fashion.

Gannett Horn, a Wyoming native and property owner in the Upper Green, again brought to light the aesthetic value of the area stating, “we don’t go (to the Upper Green) to see bulldozers, oil rigs and trucks. Look around south of Pinedale – scary.”

Horn feels the profits from tourism and recreation are unlimited in comparison to the temporary and destructive riches of drilling.

Kevin Roche, another citizen and property owner, further emphasized this point saying the area is “tiny in energy, but huge in wildlife potential.”

Many other individuals spoke throughout the evening. As this was a public hearing, the BLM attentively listened to all points made; however, did not take the podium. All comments made or sent to the BLM will be considered as they make their final revisions and decisions for the RMP. The public comment period will be over on May 18.

For further information and documentation, visit the BLM’s Web site for the Pinedale RMP/EIS at:

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