Sportsmen Commend Wyoming Governor for Urging BLM to Withhold Energy Leases

Citing effects of energy development on habitat, recreation in North Platte River headwaters,

governor calls for change of plans on 28,000 acres slated for auction

LARAMIE, Wyo. - A broad coalition of sportsmen today loudly seconded Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal's recent letter urging the Bureau of Land Management to withhold 28,000 acres from its December energy lease sale. The governor's letter contends that oil and gas development could negatively impact important fish and wildlife habitat, water quality and recreational values in the Saratoga Valley of southeastern Wyoming, near the Medicine Bow National Forest. This area, which includes the upper stretches of the North Platte River drainage, is essential to the region's groundwater resources and includes important air- and viewsheds.

Expressing sentiments espoused by a growing number of hunters and anglers in a growing number of places throughout the Intermountain West, Freudenthal wrote, "More thorough analysis is warranted prior to leasing as the acreage in question contains important sage grouse habitat, crucial mule deer winter range and elk and pronghorn crucial habitat."

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), a national conservation coalition that has protested numerous BLM lease sales in 2007, lauded Gov. Freudenthal's statement.

"The TRCP commends Governor Freudenthal's support of land-use policy that considers the needs of fish, wildlife and sportsmen," said TRCP Senior Vice President Tom Franklin. "His statements serve as an apt reminder that the BLM is legally required to consider habitat and recreational interests as part of its multiple-use mandate."

"The BLM recently has shown a willingness to acknowledge problems with its lease planning," continued Franklin. "The agency has withdrawn thousands of acres from lease sales in Colorado, Utah and Montana, and only a month ago, it cancelled a Utah sale for the first time in 25 years. We hope that the governor's request will cause the BLM to revisit this particular public land management decision in Wyoming, which does not adequately take into account fish and wildlife impacts."

"Sportsmen who travel to the Saratoga Valley, both from Wyoming and out of state, make substantial contributions to the area's economy," said TRCP Field Representative Dwayne Meadows, who grew up in Saratoga and has hunted and fished widely in the region. "That Governor Freudenthal recognizes that intense oil and gas production requires up-front, comprehensive planning is strongly encouraging."

"The TRCP always has maintained that energy production can be balanced with sensible management of fish and wildlife habitat," said TRCP President and CEO George Cooper. "A responsible approach to energy development will help guarantee a future for our nation's sporting heritage. We look forward to working with the BLM and Governor Freudenthal to make this future a reality."

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

--From TRCP