Conservation Group Opposes Development In Red Desert

Sep 20, 2017

Red Desert
Credit Sam Cox / US Department of Agriculture

The Wilderness Society, a national conservation group, has designated the northern Red Desert as one of 15 wildland areas most at-risk of energy development on public lands. The Red Desert in southern Wyoming is home to several hundred wildlife species and numerous wilderness study areas, and up till now, has avoided significant energy development.  

But the Bureau of Land Management is reconsidering its management plan, which could result in renewed oil and gas drilling.

The Wilderness Society is hoping to prevent that by emphasizing the area’s ecological, economic and cultural importance. Wilderness Society’s Chase Huntley said the Red Desert is one of the few wild areas left on BLM lands in Wyoming.

“This is an area where we don’t feel there is an immediate need, nor is there a way to tap the oil and gas resources there that respects the remarkable wildlife values,” Huntley said.

Huntley pointed to the potential interruption of mule deer migration routes, which cut through the Red Desert.

"The fragmentation that comes from sprawling oil and gas fields is just incompatible with supporting a healthy and vital big game population," Huntley said.

Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said available land for drilling is shrinking in Wyoming and the Red Desert has potential. He added BLM land is meant to house multiple uses and energy development wouldn’t preclude recreation or hunting activities.