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Environmental Groups Challenge Proposed Pipeline Through National Forest

NPS Photo / Stacey Skirvanek

A planned natural gas pipeline is being challenged by opponents who say its approval might violate the Endangered Species Act.

The pipeline would run from southeast Idaho to Afton, Wyoming through Caribou-Targhee National Forest. The pipeline itself would be underground, but two environmental groups claim the pipeline's planned service road would disrupt a habitat important to several threatened species.

The notice of intent to sue gives the U.S. Forest Service 60 days to reconsider their approval of the project.

Mike Garrity is the executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, one of the groups who sent that 60-day notice. He said the pipeline will interrupt an important corridor between Yellowstone and the Uinta Mountain Range.

"And for species to survive over the long-run, they can't become isolated," Garrity said. "They have to have connected corridors with other populations or else inbreeding sets in. And once inbreeding sets in, then the population's toast."

Lower Valley Energy plans to build the pipeline. Currently, the company brings natural gas to Afton via truck.

"We're not asking that the people of Afton don't have natural gas piped into them," Garrity said. "We just want (Lower Valley Energy) to comply with the law, like all American citizens have to do, before they go ahead with this project. And the best way to comply with the law would be to not build a pipeline through these roadless areas."

The Forest Service declined to comment on the pending litigation … but the agency's project file includes responses to many of the environmental objections raised against the project.

The development file also includes the Forest Service's final decision in the matter, and can be found on the agency's website.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Jeff Victor, at jvictor@uwyo.edu.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.

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