The announcement of the potential buyout of the Plains Exploration and Production (PXP) leases in the Wyoming Range/Noble Basin is a testament to the power of grass-roots organization in Wyoming. Hunters, fisherman, ranchers, environmental groups – a coalition of the “un-cooperative” – came together under one banner; all believing this area was too special to drill. This unofficial group started with meetings on Horse Creek Road over coffee, discussions over a few beers in Bondurant, gatherings eating hot dogs in Rock Springs; it grew to lobbying at the State House in Cheyenne and meetings with Senators in D.C. – people taking time away from work, family and friends to do something they thought was truly right, protecting an area they held dear.
This story starts years ago with Sen. John Barrasso taking the torch from Sen. Craig Thomas after his death. The legislative torch was the passing of the Wyoming Range Legacy Act, which removed most of the area near the Noble Basin from exploration. But valid, historic leases were still in the area, and PXP held some of these leases. The local residents and surrounding area were shocked when PXP proposed a major industrial push into the Bridger-Teton National Forest/Noble Basin: 17 well pads, 136 wells and miles of new roads. Questions were immediately raised: how could this be with air quality such an issue, wasn’t this a mule deer migration corridor, wasn’t this prime moose habitat, how would PXP handle and treat the small creeks and Hoback River?
The EIS (environmental impact statement) process revealed these concerns and hundreds of others. The final public comment period for the EIS garnered nearly 60,000 comments, a historic amount in U.S. Forest Service history. More public meetings and more resistance to the plan – more people taking their private time to get involved and letting local, state and federal officials know that this plan had serious problems.
So here we are in a “perfect storm” of timing: natural gas prices at extremely low levels making this project for PXP more economically difficult; huge public opinion was gathering against this project; the Trust for Public Lands (a land advocacy group) had contacts at PXP from previous land deals and agreeing to negotiate on our behalf for a buyout of the mineral leases.
A deal has finally been inked – $8.75 million to buyout 58,000 acres of leases. More than $4 million has been raised before the public announcement on Oct 5. But now it is an opportunity for you to become involved in this historic conservation agreement. We need to raise an additional $4 million before the end of the year to close this deal/finish this chapter. And we are hoping that you will donate something, anything to this great local cause – $5, $10, $100 (OK, a million if you have it). In this era of “mine,” or “it should be free,” or “I can’t make a difference” – here is your chance. Please donate today by going to www.tpl.org/SaveTheHoback.
JJ Healy, Double J Ranch, Daniel