Happy New Year to the Hoback!
Great news! Thanks to many supporters like you, the Wyoming Range’s spectacular Upper Hoback basin has been permanently protected from destructive fracking! Just days ago, The Trust for Public Lands secured the final portion of the $8.75 million needed by December 31st to buy out drilling leases owned by a Houston-based oil and gas company. Over the past several years Sierra Club and our conservation partners have fought to protect the Upper Hoback from development of 136 natural gas wells, 17 well pads and miles of new roads, which would have destroyed this important wildlife migration corridor in the Bridger-Teton National Forest just 35 miles from Jackson. The leases will be permanently retired under the provisions of the 2009 Wyoming Range Legacy Act and can never be sold again.
While we celebrate this huge victory for the Upper Hoback, we must be vigilant in protecting another critical piece of the Wyoming Range. Just south of the Upper Hoback, an area known as the “44K” is threatened by another highly controversial drilling project. The “44K” is designated critical habitat for the threatened Canada lynx and an important migration corridor for mule deer and other species, and it provides outstanding recreational opportunities on its 44,700 acres.
Like the Hoback, the 44K is one of the few remaining unprotected areas left in the Wyoming Range that was authorized for drilling before passage in 2009 of the Legacy Act, which protects 1.2 million acres from oil and gas drilling. But unlike the Hoback, in which a private drilling company owned valid leases that were grandfathered in when the Legacy Act was passed, the Forest Service has the authority to decide whether or not to cancel the leases in the 44K. The 44K leases were either suspended or not issued as a result of an appeal to the Interior Board of Land Appeals several years ago, so no one holds a current valid lease.
Largely because of the sensitivity of this area for wildlife, in 2011 Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) Supervisor Jacque Buchanan canceled all drilling leases on the 44K, noting “After considering all the alternatives, and the environmental impacts associated with each, I have determined this is the best course of action.” However, subsequent outcry from industry and politicians resulted in withdrawal of that decision, and agreement by the BTNF to undertake further analysis of the project. The analysis will include impacts of the proposed project on air quality and wildlife, including lynx. Sierra Club believes that this additional analysis will provide even more justification that drilling should not be allowed.
Later this year, Forest Supervisor Buchanan will again decide whether or not to allow drilling, and will take public comment on her decision. Please stay tuned – we’ll need your voice to help ensure that the 44K remains off-limits to drilling forever!
Sign our petition to Forest Supervisor Jacque Buchanan asking her to keep the Wyoming Range free from fracking.
--Bonnie Rice, Greater Yellowstone Campaign