Last week Wyoming Wildlife Federation visited the U.S. Capitol. Every once in a while, it is critical for Wyoming folks to visit directly with those working in D.C. – with close to a million acres of Wyoming’s public land being auctioned for oil and gas leasing in a six-month period here in 2018 – the Federation felt the need to talk with the feds in person.
We value wildlife and we value oil and gas. We are a solution-oriented organization who strives to have wildlife and their habitat as part of the conversation and part of the decision making with public land management. Balance is key. We aim to help make that balance a reality. Yes, to responsible and sustainable development and yes to science-based conservation.
WWF has been working on-the-ground to garner tiered support from the public, the county, and the state. We started with the public via the Greater Little Mountain Coalition, a diverse set of stakeholders numbering 2,500 who mainly live in Rock Springs and Green River. WWF is one of seven entities who spearheaded the establishment of this Coalition in 2008.
The Coalition wrote a letter to Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke asking to defer the sale of lease parcels in the Greater Little Mountain Area and in the Red Desert to Hoback mule deer migration corridor. The deferral request is until the finalization of the Bureau of Land Management’s resource management plan revision for the Rock Springs field office, slated for the spring of 2019. A long-standing collaborative process is in play for that management plan revision and we want that process to finish prior to seeing a new set of major developments being proposed in these two locations.
The Board of Commissions for Sweetwater County also sent a letter supporting the deferral of these leases along with the State of Wyoming via the Governor’s office and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Local senators and representatives have voiced support for deferral of the lease as well.
WWF and the Muley Fanatic Foundation talked with Wyoming delegation, Committee of Natural Resources on the House side, and the Department of Interior and Bureau of Land Management. We discussed the Secretarial Order 3362 that focuses on conserving migration corridors and showcased how that order would be served by deferring the oil and gas leases within the Red Desert to Hoback corridor. We discussed the importance of balancing these multiple uses and provided the tiered layers of support from Wyoming to back a decision to defer these leases within both the corridor and the Greater Little Mountain Area.
Our delegation – Barrasso, Enzi, and Cheney – spoke positively toward our efforts and may well champion the final push. The Federation is working this week to follow up on these asks. The Department of Interior said they are in discussions on what to do on deferrals and a decision will be made soon.
Sportsmen and sportswomen have provided a platter of support for deferring these leases within the two fore-mentioned locations. Now we ask D.C. to do the right thing.
Joy Bannon is the Field Director and handles key policy issues for Wyoming Wildlife.