Tens of thousands of acres of land in the Bridger-Teton National Forest have been retired, protecting the land from energy development. But the conservation group leading the effort, Trust for Public Lands, still has some work to do to protect a tract of land in the Upper Hoback Basin.
The group raised $8.75 dollars last year to buy oil and gas leases on 58,000 acres of land from Plains Exploration and Production Company.
More than 80% of that land is protected by the Wyoming Range Legacy Act. Trust project manager Chris Deming says the 2009 legislation protected the land from future drilling, but allowed existing lease holders to drill.
“It did allow for lease holders like PXP to either donate back or to sell their valid existing rights for conservation purposes,” says Deming.
Deming says the land was “too special” to drill, because it includes headwaters of an endangered river, habitat for a threatened mule deer sub-herd, and is in close proximity to air quality problems connected with existing development projects in the area.
Deming says the Trust is working with the Bureau of Land Management to secure permanent retirement from development for the remaining 10,000 acres which are outside Range Legacy Act protections.