EcoFlight has been working for years with Citizens for the Wyoming Range, The Wilderness Society and the Wyoming Outdoor Council to help protect the Wyoming Range from future oil and gas development. Late in 2016, based on overwhelming public comment against leasing and with significant recreation, wildlife and watershed values identified, the Forest Service announced its “no leasing” decision for the 40,000 acres of contested oil and gas leases along the eastern front of the Wyoming Range, protecting places like Horse Creek, Beaver Creek, Cottonwood Creek and South Piney Creek.
The Wyoming Range is one of Wyoming’s lesser-known gems. In the southern part of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, this 150-mile range is home to prized herds of big game, native cutthroat trout populations and threatened species like Canada lynx. It is a place where locals find solitude in huge tracts of forest backcountry. It is also a place that supports traditional, sustainable activities such as outfitting, guiding, ranching, and angling. These values have been at risk, however, because the Wyoming Range has been sought after as an area ripe for oil and gas development.
The history of conserving the Wyoming Range goes like this: On March 30th 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Omnibus Public Lands Act of 2009, protecting many wild landscapes including a large part of the Wyoming Range, outlined in the Wyoming Range Legacy Act. In August 2009, an additional 24,000 acres were withdrawn from leasing by the BLM. The Legacy Act permanently removed 1.2 million acres in and around the Bridger-Teton National Forest from energy development, but it grandfathered in more than a dozen existing drilling leases covering roughly 120,000 acres.
In 2012, another hurdle was crossed as the Hoback leases were bought out in a win-win business deal with PXP and Trust for Public Lands, a long-sought solution that respected the interests of the company and the interests of local sportsmen, labor groups, ranchers, and other private citizens. And finally in 2016, the remaining 40,000 acres were put off limits from drilling through the Forest Service’s Supplemental EIS. EcoFlight has been providing overflights throughout this process, educating citizens, the press, elected and agency officials on the merits of protecting this special landscape, known as the Wyoming Range.
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