The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages 18 million acres of public land in Wyoming. Out of that, close to 11 million acres are leased for oil and gas production.
According to a new Wyoming Outdoor Council report, the BLM is not respecting the balance of managing the land. The BLM holds public lease auctions four times a year where companies can nominate land for oil and gas development. The report states that since 2016 leasing has skyrocketed, but the amount of oil and gas production has remained stagnant. John Radar, a conservation advocate with the Wyoming Outdoor Council, said companies are leasing the land without developing any oil or gas.
"There's an incentive to buy them up because they're so cheap, unfortunately $2 an acre, it's really tempting to lease a lot of these lands speculatively, even if you don't have an intent to develop them," he said.
Radar said land totaling nearly five times the size of Yellowstone National park is currently leased for oil and gas development in the state. He said once the land is leased that ties it up for any other use.
However, Ryan McConnaughey, communications director for the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said when the land is leased, it doesn't stop people from accessing those public lands. He said even if land is leased but not developing, the company has to pay fees to the government no matter what.
Another part of the report, said companies are leasing within migration corridors, on top of National Historic Trails and other vulnerable areas.
McConnaughey said the report is not accurate, especially in terms of drilling near National Historic Trails.
"The National Trail System Act of 1968 prohibits that type of activity. And in fact,oil and gas operators must mitigate even view sheds miles from a national trail," he said.
The Wyoming Outdoor Council says this is the first part of a two-part report. The second part will be released later this year.
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