Written By: Joy Bannon, WWF Field Director
Wyoming must balance energy and mineral extraction with making sure our hunting and fishing areas are kept healthy and contiguous.
Decision makers in Wyoming are often tasked with balancing the management of its world class wildlife along with energy and mineral resource development. The back and forth – develop, don’t develop, conserve, don’t conserve – our quality of life relative to economic growth and the protection of our wildlife and habitat resources can be a delicate balancing act.
The Wyoming Wildlife Federation is smack dab in the middle of this balancing act. Our mission is to conserve wildlife, habitat, and outdoor opportunities. This is the focus of the work we do. We value our intact landscapes, robust opportunities for hunters and anglers, and healthy animals.
We also support responsible energy development. How can any reasonable organization not support that? We use energy, we understand its practicality and its financial benefit to Wyoming and its citizens.
So, what is the current push and pull? Well, the recent balancing act comes in the form of an oil and gas lease auction on public land taking place in December 2018. Thus far, energy companies have nominated over 700,000 acres of public land to be auction off on the sale block for oil and natural gas development.
Two things – 1) when an energy company purchases a lease they, by law, must have the intent to develop that lease; and 2) 700,000 acres is one of the largest lease sales measuring in comparison to the heavy oil and gas years of Bush Jr. when about 700,000 acres were leased per year. This is 700,000 acres in one lease sale.
This sale is huge and needs to be taken seriously. This is why the Federation, along with our partners, have requested some leases to be deferred from the sale. Two specific areas are of focus for us – the Greater Little Mountain Area and the Red Desert to Hoback mule deer migration corridor – both in southwest Wyoming. This request involves 104 of the 399 parcels on the sale block, an overall reasonable amount to avoid harm to these loved and valued wildlife and recreation hot spots.
The Federation partners with other sportsmen and sportswomen,like-minded non-governmental organizations, local governments, and communities. Our request for these lease parcels to be deferred has gone to the state office of the Bureau of Land Management and the national office. We asked WY Governor Mead to weigh in and ask Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke to listen to the local input, listen to the local voices, and defer these 104 leases. The oil and gas auction would still have nearly 300 parcels for sale, which remains good for business. If Zinke defers the leases that the Federation and other partners want, that would be good for wildlife.
You can be the voice for the Greater Little Mountain and Red Desert. Take action and contact your elected officials and urge them to listen to local input and defer the critical habitat within this lease sale.