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Report: Wyoming Oil and Gas Leasing Lessons for the BLM

PHOTO: Jonah Field. Photo credit: Peter Aengst
PHOTO: Jonah Field. Photo credit: Peter Aengst
July 25, 2012

PINEDALE, Wyo. - A report released Tuesday analyzes how the Bureau of Land Management's policies toward oil and gas leasing on public lands have changed since 2008, noting specific improvements related to the experiences in the Jonah and Pinedale gas fields.

The report, "Making the Grade (Almost)," looks at how leasing decisions are balanced with other land uses such as recreation and wildlife.

Nada Culver, director of The Wilderness Society's BLM Action Center, which issued the report, says more public input means the leasing process is more environmentally conscious and less contentious.
"After a lease sale, leases are being issued with less delays. Protests have gone from most leases in a sale being protested to less than 20 percent this year."

The report studied oil and gas leasing reforms spurred by a federal court's ruling that the leasing system was "fundamentally broken."

While the changes are a positive step, Culver says, gaps remain in terms of transparency in leasing and drilling operations, and agency support for one consistent regional policy for selecting land for oil and gas development.

Wyoming's Jonah and Pinedale gas fields are noted in the report because development in those cases happened quickly, and wildlife and air-quality problems still linger. Culver says those experiences show the importance of careful planning and phased-in development.

"Unfortunately, in Pinedale, those ideas were not incorporated into actual management decisions until the impacts to these other resources were so extensive that they could not be avoided."

The BLM's greater sage-grouse planning efforts are also noted in the report as positive progress.

The full report is online at

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