The Upper Hoback of the Wyoming Range is part of a vital wildlife corridor for many species, including the imperiled Canada lynx.
It’s been almost a year since we heard about the U.S. Forest Service’s plan to allow oil and gas drilling in the Upper Hobackregion of the Wyoming Range, but the wait was well worth it. We learned on Friday that PXP, the oil company proposing to drill 136 new wells in a critical wildlife corridor, agreed to sell their leases and forego the project entirely!
This is a major victory for the broad coalition known as The Citizens for the Wyoming Range, which has been battling the environmentally damaging proposal for more than a year and a half. With the help of the Trust for Public Land, the coalition negotiated a buyout of all of PXP’s existing drilling leases throughout the entire Bridger-Teton National Forest, and the leases will be retired forever. That means the myriad species that use the forest–deer, elk, moose, bears, bobcats, pronghorn antelope, lynx and more–can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Defenders played an important role in raising awareness of the disastrous drilling proposal. By sending out alerts to our members, we were able to help generate more than 60,000 comments in opposition to the proposal. Further, Defenders expert David Gaillard led an independent effort to document wildlife that travel through the Upper Hoback region. He set up remote cameras to photograph all the species that would be at risk of losing vital habitat if drilling was allowed to occur. See a photo slideshow of his trip to setup the cameras, as well as the video below summarizing what he found:
A proposal for 136 new oil and gas wells in a sensitive wildlife area south of Jackson Hole, Wyoming has been put on hold pending further review, announced the U.S. Forest Service yesterday. The Forest Service is now considering an alternative to the original drilling plan with fewer roads and infrastructure relocated from the western end of the project where it poses the greatest harm to the endangered Canada lynx and other wildlife.
Defenders lynx expert David Gaillard has been working with a broad coalition called Citizens for the Wyoming Range to prevent the project from destroying critical wildlife habitat. This summer he placed remote cameras along the Upper Hoback Rim and documented mule deer, elk, moose, a black bear, a bobcat, pronghorn antelope and a fox or coyote all using the area. These species and many others will be at risk if the project moves forward. (See video below)
Defenders’ members helped generate a record 60,000 comments raising concerns about this project, a key factor in the Forest Service’s decision to withdraw the plan for further analysis. But the battle isn’t over until we know the lynx and other vulnerable wildlife are safe. The expanded environmental review is slated for completion in early 2012, before Bridger-Teton National Forest officials decide whether to approve the drilling project and under what conditions.
Thanks to Defenders activists and others who responded to our alerts on this issue and helped us gain this important reprieve. We’re likely to need your support again in 2012 to make sure that this and other harmful projects do not threaten native wildlife on our national forests in Wyoming.
A proposal to allow oil and gas drilling on 300 acres of wilderness in Bridger-Teton National Forest outside Yellowstone National Park has Wyoming residents and our lynx expert Dave Gaillard on high alert.
As first reported by federal lands specialist Addie Haughey on Defenders’ dotWild blog, the drilling project would cut right through the Hoback basin–a critical corridor for lynx migration between parts of Wyoming and the rest of the Northern Rockies. Gaillard says, “We are aware of no better documented travel corridor for lynx in the contiguous U.S. than the Hoback Rim, or ‘Bondurant Corridor’ that passes directly through the project area.”
But it’s not just lynx that are in trouble. Local residents are concerned that drilling in the Hoback basin will cause extensive environmental damage, harm other wildlife, destroy the natural beauty of the area and disturb their way of life. The Citizens for the Wyoming Range put together the video below to share the concerns of these residents and explain why protecting the Hoback basin is so important.