Volume 103, Number 22 - February 1, 2007
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In rare decision, BLM decides against leasing some Sublette County lands
In an atypical, but highly-acclaimed move from green groups and citizens, the state office of the Bureau of Land Management has removed eight Sublette County parcels up for oil and gas leasing from its February lease sale.
The parcels which will not be sold in February, but rather will see additional analysis for their leasing suitability are WY 0702-191, -192, -194, -195, -196, -197, -198, and -199.
These parcels add up to over 6,000 acres of Sublette County lands, and cover areas along the Ryegrass, south of Signal Hill, and south of Big Piney along the Green River. Parcel -191, which borders private homes south of Daniel, near the Daniel Cemetary and De Smet Monument, was protested by multiple homeowners and was included in a protest by the Wyoming Outdoor Council, Upper Green River Valley Coalition and others. These groups protested other parcels as well. The Signal Hill parcels were also protested by a citizens’ group aimed at preserving the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
However, according to Bill Lanning at the Pinedale office of the BLM, the protests had nothing to do with the decision to withdraw the parcels.
“We’ve been working with the state office on these parcels before the protests, to reevaluate them,” Lanning said. The BLM will now undertake further analysis to decide if these parcels are suitable for development after all.
“We want to take an additional look at these parcels for the values they have on them,” Lanning explained. “The determination of whether they will be offered again depends on the additional review.”
Linda Baker, with the Upper Green River Valley Coalition, commended the BLM for choosing to withdraw these parcels, noting that the Pinedale office’s staff is making “appropriate recommendations to the state based on the newest wildlife research.”
But Baker added that BLM State Director Bob Bennett, “still relies on twentieth century, outdated oil and gas leasing policies that fail to recognize today’s intensive gas field development and its impacts to wildlife.”
“We cannot continue to carve [the Upper Green River Valley] up, take it for granted and expect to maintain wildlife-based recreation. While some areas are rich in natural gas and provide an energy resource, important habitats must be preserved if we are to maintain our wildlife prosperity,” Baker commented.
Though many of the removed parcels had protective wildlife stipulations, like winter restrictions, Lanning noted that they were removed for “a combination of factors,” which can include important historic and cultural resources.
The BLM is working with the Wyoming Game and Fish to determine if there are migration routes within the Ryegrass area, that are up-migration from the Pinedale Mesa. Other removed parcels contained floodplains, threatened or endangered species habitats, and visually-sensitive areas, according to the BLM.
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