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Congress Considers Wildlife Guarantee for Public Lands in WYO

June 15, 2009

LARAMIE, Wyo. – Wyoming big game, fish and other wildlife could soon have a guaranteed home on public lands, thanks to "America's Wildlife Heritage Act." Congress is looking at a bi-partisan bill introduced by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) that would require the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to coordinate and manage lands to maintain sustainable populations of fish and critters while also managing oil and gas development.

Duane Short, wild species program director with the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, says the bill would require the federal agencies to establish an early-warning system so action can be taken quickly when species numbers start to dwindle.

"They would catch those species that don't get much attention until they're on the brink – either endangered or threatened with extinction."

Locally, hunting groups and union members are throwing their support behind the bill. Its opponents say the legislation would create more bureaucracy, which could hinder development of important domestic oil and gas supplies.

Short notes that blue-ribbon trout streams and sage grouse are among species already in decline on public lands that have seen heavy oil and gas development, and he says more species are at risk.

"For instance, we're looking at the Wyoming pocket gopher that's slated to have oil and gas development pretty much over its entire known range."

Deb Courson, Public News Service - WY