Just south of Grand Teton National Park, a Houston-based company had proposed to develop 136 natural gas wells on U.S. Forest Service lands that would surely have destroyed the Hoback Basin, an area cherished by Wyomingites for its spectacular scenery, recreational opportunities, and wildlife. Thanks to the work of Wyoming communities, conservation groups, and concerned citizens, these 58,000 acres will now be protected in perpetuity.
The Hoback Basin is just 30 miles south of Grand Teton National Park and home to elk, moose, deer, pronghorn antelope, native trout, Canada Lynx, and the headwaters of the wild and scenic Hoback River. The energy development corporation, Plains Exploration and Production Corporation (PXP), could have significantly impacted the park’s blue skies and pristine air quality with its development leases. The people of Wyoming made their voices heard and the mantra was that this area was “too special to drill.” This message resonated loud and clear and resulted in overwhelming support for a buyout of the company’s leases; and the company finally agreed. In October, PXP opted to sell their leases based on a provision in the 2009 Wyoming Range Legacy Act that allows leases to be sold and retired given a willing seller and willing conservation buyer.
Our colleagues at The Trust for Public Land played a significant role negotiating the $8.75 million buyout. To date, $4.5 million has been raised towards the completion of the sale. Kudos to PXP for their decision to sell their leases, preserving this special area.
Wyomingites understand the need for natural gas and energy production, but they also understand that some places aren’t appropriate for industrial development. This outcome is truly a win-win for both PXP and the people of Wyoming. The efforts and persistence of local citizens, including park advocates, hunters, anglers, river users, and conservationists, were instrumental in making this agreement a reality. Several times over the past year, we asked our members locally and across the country to weigh in to oppose development of this area and thousands responded. NPCA members joined forces with state and local conservation organizations and sportsmen’s groups to ask the Forest Service to consider stricter environmental regulations in this sensitive area and urged PXP to step back from their development plans. These comments made a tremendous difference in protecting the Hoback and Grand Teton National Park.
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This Wyoming-based solution demonstrates how people from all walks of life can work together for a common vision to achieve one of the most significant oil and gas lease buyouts in American history. Examples such as this are an inspiration for the future and pave the road for community involvement and responsible corporate decision-making that respects the values and traditions of local communities and preserves irreplaceable natural assets.
Thank you to NPCA members and activists whose concern and outreach on behalf of the Hoback Range has saved this amazing piece of the Wyoming landscape.
About the author
Sharon Mader Senior Program Manager, Northern Rockies
Sharon joined NPCA in July 2007. She works as a Senior Program Manager in the Northern Rockies region, advocating for the protection of Grand Teton’s outstanding natural and historic resources, and promoting NPCA’s national strategic priorities in Wyoming.