TRCP Spearheads Protests of Wyoming Energy Leases

From: TRCP

Proposed leasing also condemned by Gov. Freudenthal, Wyoming communities

WASHINGTON - Sportsmen's voices led the chorus decrying the scope of the Bureau of Land Management's Dec. 4 energy lease sale, as the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) formally protested about 53,000 acres up for auction. The conservation coalition contends that energy development on these 28 parcels is being pursued without adequate review of its potential impacts to wildlife and that it would damage crucial mule deer range and trout waters, while causing other problems across the landscape.

The BLM December lease sale elicited widespread condemnation from Wyoming citizens and its elected leaders alike. Earlier this month, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal urged the agency to withhold 28,000 acres from the sale, asserting that oil and gas development could negatively affect important fish and wildlife habitat, water quality and recreational values in the North Platte Valley of southeastern Wyoming, near the Medicine Bow National Forest.

Numerous local municipalities likewise have denounced the BLM management decisions. The towns of Encampment, Riverside and Saratoga, as well as Carbon County, have filed their own protests. The total acreage protested by the TRCP includes more than 28,000 acres in the North Platte Valley, where these communities are located.

"Sportsmen, Governor Freudenthal, local government and Wyoming's citizens have spoken," said Dwayne Meadows, a TRCP field representative who grew up in Saratoga and has hunted and fished in the region since childhood. "The BLM never contacted the local government, outfitters or ranchers about this sale. The public process was essentially nonexistent for the people and public land users that would be affected the most.

"The protested parcels include blue-ribbon trout streams, crucial winter range for big game, agricultural split estate and Riverside's municipal water supply," continued Meadows. "I am proud of the people of Carbon County for demanding more public input before one of Wyoming's best-known hunting and fishing destinations is leased for energy development."

"No one wants to vacation in a gas patch," said Jeffrey Streeter, an outfitter who has guided anglers on the Encampment River for more than 30 years. "Oil and gas exploration in this region would negatively affect tourism and recreation and fish and wildlife. Let's work together toward responsible energy development in environmentally sensitive areas like the North Platte Valley."

"The public outcry against this energy sale is overwhelming and underscores the flawed leasing process," said TRCP Energy Initiative Manager Steve Belinda, who also has strong ties to the valley. "By basing its management decisions on outdated planning documents and by limiting citizen involvement in the leasing process, the BLM only confirms that its approach fails to serve the public - the very people who rely on the agency to manage our public lands. It bears repeating that the BLM is legally required to balance the interests of the energy industry with non-mineral interests, including hunters and anglers."

The TRCP believes that to better balance the concerns of fish and wildlife in the face of accelerating energy development, federal land management agencies should follow the conservation tenets outlined in recommendations developed by the TRCP Fish, Wildlife and Energy Working Group, FACTS for Fish and Wildlife.

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.