Event held with Wyoming Officials and Agency Leaders to announce Leasing Decisions
U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials yesterday joined Gov. Dave Freudenthal and Senator John Barrasso at a celebration of the Wyoming Range Legacy Act.
The Act withdraws 1.2 million acres of public land in the Wyoming Range from future mineral leasing. The legislation was originally drafted by the late Sen. Craig Thomas in response to growing concern about mineral and energy development in the Wyoming Range. The legislation was re-introduced by Sen. Barrasso and signed into law on March 30 by President Obama as part of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009.
Gov. Freudenthal said, "This is a great day for the Wyoming Range and for the hunters, anglers, hikers and many others who came together in their commitment to set this special place aside so our kids and grandkids can enjoy it long after we are all gone. In 2004, when 170,000 acres were up for lease in the Wyoming Range, we knew that the steep slopes, the streams and the crucial wildlife habitat there was no place for drill rigs. Had we not acted then - hunters, fishermen, hikers, Governors and Senators - I dare say that the Wyoming Range might look a little different today and a lot different tomorrow."
"The Wyoming Range Legacy Act reflects the outcome of a great collaborative effort among hunters, anglers, conservation groups, local communities, national interests and elected officials of both parties," said Ann Bartuska, Acting Under Secretary of Natural Resources and Environment at US Department of Agriculture (USDA). "We are grateful
for all those that worked together to pass this legislation and proud to be part of the conservation of a truly remarkable place."
"BLM is committed to working with the Forest Service and the people of Wyoming to implement this important law," said Don Simpson, the BLM's Wyoming State Director. "The Wyoming Range Legacy Act is about balance - between preservation and resource use, between conservation and development, between local and national interests, and between Wyoming and Washington. When we work together, good things happen for the
people of Wyoming."
At the celebration, BLM announced it will not accept pending bids on 23 oil and gas lease parcels totaling 23,757 acres located in the Wyoming Range Withdrawal Area on the Bridger Teton National Forest managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Don Simpson, BLM Wyoming State Director, issued a letter notifying interested parties that the bids on the 23 parcels will be rejected. BLM reviewed the bids on these 23 parcels and determined not to issue the leases in light of the Wyoming Range Legacy Act and a preliminary Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) ruling.
An additional 31 oil and gas leases within the Withdrawal Area are currently suspended. A dozen of those leases are subject to an IBLA remand to the BLM for further review pending supplemental environmental analysis being done by the Forest Service in cooperation with the BLM and State of Wyoming. The Act allows lessees to voluntarily relinquish their interest in those leases or sell their interest to non-Federal government entities willing to relinquish those interests back to the United States.