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How “77 in Utah” Led to Leasing Changes in WYO

PHOTO: Wild horse migration routes are one of the considerations in the Beaver Rim Master Leasing Plan, which will be finalized soon. Photo courtesy of BLM
PHOTO: Wild horse migration routes are one of the considerations in the Beaver Rim Master Leasing Plan, which will be finalized soon. Photo courtesy of BLM
December 20, 2013

CASPER, Wyo. – Five years ago this week, President George W. Bush approved 77 oil and gas leases in Utah near Moab – a move that eventually changed the way leases are handled for public lands in Wyoming.

The leases were challenged because of impacts on Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and that has led to the Bureau of Land Management using so-called Master Leasing Plans (MLP) for projects now. The plans assess impacts before leases are signed.

Julia Stuble, land conservation coordinator at the Wyoming Outdoor Council, says the Beaver Rim MLP near Lander will be finalized soon, and she likes the way it strikes a balance.

"How we can have oil and gas development that enhances our economy, but also protects the places that are special to Wyoming folks and why we live here," she says.

Conflicts addressed in the Beaver Rim plan include visual and geologic resources, sensitive soils, cultural landmarks, fossils, wild horse migration routes and the headwaters of the Platte River.

Stuble says before MLPs, conflicts couldn't be examined until after the leases were granted – and that led to protests and lawsuits. It's a different story now.

"Since the reforms, protests for oil and gas lease sales are down by 50 percent, and those protests were lengthy, they were costly for all the stakeholders involved," she says.

Stuble expects the Beaver Rim MLP to be included in the Record of Decision any day. Several other MLPs are in process in Wyoming.


Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY