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BTNF withdraws 44,720-acre protections

Posted: Monday, May 9th, 2011

Citing a desire to better study the issue and under increasing pressure from industry and pro-energy elected officials, Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) Supervisor Jacque Buchanan withdrew the Record of Decision she previously issued in January that would have prevented development on 44,720 acres of the Wyoming Range in Sublette County.

The decision potentially opens the door for drilling on about 70 square miles of the Wyoming Range. In a release announcing her decision to revisit the issue, Buchanan said more study was needed before a final decision could be made.

“Withdrawing the Record of Decision will allow further evaluation of several key issues, including but not limited to the potential impacts to air quality, lynx habitat and mule deer migration routes. Another decision will be forthcoming.”

Buchanan’s Jan. 25 decision drew recent public criticism from U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis and the Western Congressional Caucus and was appealed by Stanley Energy, Inc., Western Energy Alliance, Wold Oil Properties, Inc., and the Sublette County Commissioners. With this decision, those appeals will no longer be processed, according to the BTNF release.

“Upon review of the appeal points made on the decision, it became apparent that the environmental analysis did not thoroughly explain the basis for several conclusions regarding the potential effects of oil and gas development,” the release stated. The additional evaluation of issues will be subject to public review pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and any future decision will be subject to administrative appeal.

The decision was met by cautious optimism from environmental groups who originally praised Buchanan’s Jan. 25 action.

“We support the decision to do a more thorough analysis,” said Lisa McGee of the Wyoming Outdoor Council, who admitted she “didn’t see this (reversal) coming.”

“My understanding is that they want to make sure their analysis is airtight. We feel it is a setback, but we’re confident that she’ll make the right decision again.”

Trout Unlimited Wyoming Energy Coordinator Steven Brutger expressed a similar sentiment.

“We’re confident that additional review will further reinforce what the Forest Service learned during (its) initial review, that energy development in this area where local residents have hunted, fished, camped and horse-packed for generations will forever diminish the outdoor opportunities found there. Simply put, the Wyoming Range is much too valuable for its habitat and fish and game than for its energy reserves.”

For the complete article see the 05-10-2011 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 05-10-2011 paper.

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