From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 104, Number 16 - April 19, 2007
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Petitions on development circulated

by Julia Stuble

Limited by the government to public comment periods on specific decisions, several concerned citizens are looking for more access to weigh in on issues related to oil and gas development in Sublette County. Last week, Bob McCarty and Perry Walker held an open house at Rendezvous Pointe to introduce their citizen’s initiative to county residents. At the open house, attendees were invited to sign two petitions and talk about development’s impacts.

“This is just a general call for people to come and express their desire to see changes made, and to put a whole lot of names in the hands of the government,” explained Walker. The petitions “express our growing dissatisfaction and anger over a clear failure of State and Federal regulators to address the problems.”

McCarty said he hoped to get about 50 signatures on each petition, but this week, after the public hearing on the Resource Management Plan, McCarty reported each petition now has over 80 signatures. The two are looking to get even more, at an open house on April 26 at the library, from 5-7 p.m., before sending them to the desks of officials in various government agencies.

This grassroots initiative is not heading to local desks, however. McCarty and Walker, addressing rampant development ordered, they believe, by the federal government in Washington, D.C., are sending the petitions to just those officials.

“All of this is coming from higher up. I think if the local BLM had their way they’d have a more balanced approach to development,” McCarty said in a later interview.

Addressed on each document is Robbie Roberts, the director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 8, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, acting Bureau of Land Management Director James M. Hughes, Wyoming’s BLM State Director Bob Bennett and Governor David Freudenthal. “Basically, we’re frustrated with the agencies,” McCarty noted at the Rendezvous Pointe gathering. “So many people are frustrated with the diving of wildlife populations and the worsening of the air quality and we thought this may be the way to go.” Later, he said, “We’d just like them to consider that the pace of development is unruly. It’s affecting the air quality and the wildlife. There are better ways to go about it.”

McCarty, who wrote a petition asking for protection of wildlife populations that are being detrimentally affected by gas field activity, said he is looking to form a citizen’s committee as well.

His petition noted that those who sign “oppose the idea that crucial habitats can be replaced through off-site mitigation. All mitigation should be applied on-site.” Currently, off-site mitigation is a key word for project approval by the regulatory agencies. The Jonah Infill Drilling Project was given the go-ahead with a well-funded off-site mitigation office and projects.

About $11 million dollars has been contributed to off-site mitigation projects throughout southwest Wyoming as well. However, many citizens and environmentalist’s groups contest the premise that sub-par habitats can be enhanced enough to replace those lost to development. Range managers and grazing leaseholders on BLM and Forest Service land support the idea.

The petition notes that the Jonah Interagency Office and the Pinedale Anticline Working Group have failed in mitigating lost wildlife habitats and declining populations. Walker’s petition centers on air quality and the effects polluting emissions from gas development have had, or will have, on the Upper Green River Valley and surrounding area’s air.

The group of “citizen scientists” as the two activist scientists put it, may act as a think-tank for the governor’s office.

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