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WYO Nail-biting over BLM Oil and Gas Lease Review

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December 22, 2009

LANDER, Wyo. - Announcement of a "comprehensive review" of oil and gas leading on federal lands has aroused curiosity among many in Wyoming. U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said a month ago that the onshore energy development program will be getting a top-to-bottom examination. Since then, oil and gas trade groups have called the move unfair, and conservation and sporting groups say they're hoping for a better balance between wildlife protection and energy development.

Wyoming Range outfitter Gary Amerine says he expects the value of land beyond its energy potential - whether that be oil and gas, or wind and solar - will be factored back into land use decisions.

"Balance is the key to this whole process. We can't just develop, develop, develop and not look at the impacts to other resources."

Ann Morgan is a former U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) state director who is now vice-president of The Wilderness Society Public Lands Campaign. She says the practice in recent years of relying on the oil and gas industry to recommend which areas should be developed, shows how the leasing program has lost sight of its responsibility to manage land for multiple values.

"The BLM, who are the stewards of these resources for the American people, not the oil and gas industry, should decide when, where and how the oil and gas resource should be developed."

Oil and gas trade groups have blamed Secretary Salazar for the recent slowdown in production and layoffs, although local economists have pointed out that demand for those resources has dropped because of the recession.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - WY