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Natural Resources & Energy

Conservation groups appeal decision to uphold gas field project in pronghorn migration corridor 

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Joe Riis
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On Tuesday, May 10, four conservation groups appealed a federal decision to uphold a natural gas drilling project outside of Pinedale.

The groups, which include the Center for Biological Diversity, Upper Green River Alliance, Western Watersheds Project and Advocates for the West, argued in court earlier this year that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) disregarded the impacts to wildlife when approving the project. The court ruled in favor of the BLM in April.

Jonah Energy’s Normally Pressured Lance Project covers 140,000 acres and goes through winter sage grouse and pronghorn habitat. Studies show that 300 pronghorn migrate through this corridor.

“If the pronghorn no longer are able to migrate through this area they may be prevented from getting to their crucial winter ranges,” Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project executive director, said. “And that may seriously affect their survival.”

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Western Watersheds Project
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The migration path of the pronghorn from Grand Teton National Park to the southern end of the Wind River Range. The Normally Pressured Lance Project will be the third gas field in the corridor.

The BLM approved 3,500 wells to be drilled over 10 years. However, in three years there are less than 10 wells, said Paul Ulrich, Jonah Energy’s vice president of government and regulatory affairs.

“After more than seven and a half years of very significant environmental analysis, the court clearly affirmed the BLM’s position that natural gas development can occur responsibly in greater sage grouse habitat,” said Ulrich. “And can occur with the avoidance and minimization measures we put in place in respect to pronghorn.”

However, Molvar said necessary measures have not been put in place and that the drilling could be deadly to pronghorn.

The BLM declined to comment during pending litigation.

Conservation groups anticipate a ruling on the appeal could take more than a year.

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