Wyoming’s namesake mountain range is a landscape the Wyoming Outdoor Council and our partners have worked to protect for 10 years. Many of you will recall the controversial offering of some 40,000 national forest acres for oil and gas lease sale back in 2005-06. This unpopular decision resulted in the formation of a powerful coalition. Citizens, hunters, anglers, recreational users, wildlife enthusiasts, ranchers, labor union members, outfitters, tourism interests, and conservationists came together in a united effort to protect the Wyoming Range.
While the fate of these leases remained in limbo, we worked together to pass the Wyoming Range Legacy Act in 2009, bipartisan legislation that withdrew 1.2 million acres of the Bridger-Teton National Forest from future oil and gas leasing. Three years later we came together again to find a solution to the threat posed by 136 natural gas wells in the Upper Hoback Basin. We helped raise $8.75 million to purchase and retire these valid, existing oil and gas leases.
The issue that started it all—the controversial and long-contested oil and gas leases—was the last to be resolved. The fate of these leases has always rested with the Forest Service. Five years ago, the agency made a good decision not to lease these acres, only to pull back when faced with legal challenges. Today, after years of careful additional analysis and consideration of input from thousands of citizens, the Forest Service is reissuing its no-leasing decision.
This decision approaches what we hope will be the end of a long chapter of uncertainty. Unfortunately, because the decision comes so close to the change in presidential administrations, it is still unclear whether it will persist. We will keep you posted. For now, however, a celebration is in order.