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BLM's Blanket Oil-Gas Leasing Puts WY Hunting at Risk

Oil and gas operations on public lands can degrade and fragment big-game habitat, disrupting historic migration routes and mating and birthing sites. (Wikimedia Commons)
Oil and gas operations on public lands can degrade and fragment big-game habitat, disrupting historic migration routes and mating and birthing sites. (Wikimedia Commons)
April 27, 2020

ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. -- The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's emphasis on opening public lands for oil and gas development has put hunting and other western sporting traditions at risk, according to a new National Wildlife Federation report.

Josh Coursey, co-founder, of the wildlife conservation group Muley Fanatic Foundation, says the BLM's Rock Springs Field Office is poised to dismiss decades of work by a diverse group of stakeholders that has sought to protect wildlife habitat in the Little Mountain area, which attracts international travel and tourism dollars.

"That's the crown jewel of the county when it comes to recreation," he states. "It's truly a gem that offers and affords all of the opportunities with, quite frankly, world class elk and mule deer and pronghorn hunting."

The BLM manages 245 million acres of land owned by all Americans, and 90% is now open for drilling.

Supporters of the Trump administration's "energy dominance" policies say that removing barriers to oil and gas production on public lands is necessary to protect the nation's economic and energy security.

Hunting generates $27 billion in consumer spending each year nationally, and contributes over $6 billion to the outdoor recreation economy.

Coursey agrees with the administration's goal of self-reliance, but he says the BLM needs to balance those needs with the public's interest in hunting and other outdoor recreation.

"There are so many leases that are under-developed or not developed at all," he points out. "This is really about being able to work to try to achieve both. That's truly the epitome of balance, and that's what we're trying to do here, and not forsake one in the name of the other."

Coursey says since 1997, more than $22 million has been invested in efforts to protect habitat in the Little Mountain area, which comprises about 15% of the 3.6 million acres managed by the BLM's Rock Springs Field Office.

Coursey says roughly half of Little Mountain already has been leased for development.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY