Deal protects thousands of acres from drilling

Oct 5, 2012

After three years of work, a conservation group and a petroleum companyreached a deal that will prevent gas drilling in the Wyoming range. 

The Trust for Public Land announced in Jackson today that it plans to buy out nearly 58,000 acres of oil and gas leases from Houston-based Plains Exploration and Production Co.  The leases were for a pristine area of the Bridger-Teton National forest.

Legislation first drafted by former Senator Craig Thomas and eventually approved by Congress allowed the leases to be bought out and keeps and future leases from being sold.    During a ceremony announcing the deal, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead said that this is a big moment for the state.

“Someday there will be a Grandfather out there with his granddaughter or grandkids and there will be a point where that grandchild will see their first eagle or first deer or first moose,” Mead said. “I can’t put on money value on that, but I know it will be invaluable.”

Dan Smitherman of the group Citizens for the Wyoming Range was thrilled with the news.  The forest service was about to issue a ruling on what type of drilling, if any, would be allowed.  Smitherman says the forest service would likely have been forced to allow some drilling.

“I was confident that whatever they proposed would have been fairly more significant from a restriction basis from what the company proposed, but I was less than certain how restrictive or how many environmental controls were going to be put in place,” Smitherman said.

The agreed-upon price is $8.75 million.  The conservation group has raised roughly half of that amount and needs to raise the rest by the end of the year for the deal to be final.