Lifting the Siege in the Wyoming Range

Wendy Shattil

Seven years ago a magnificent chain of mountains in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem in northwestern Wyoming was put under siege.

Drawn by the profits of nearby gasfields, oil and gas companies began lining up to turn the superb wildlife habitat of the Wyoming Range into rolling foothills of oil derricks, truck-filled roads, and pumping stations.

Most recently, one large company even proposed to ‘frack’ over one hundred gas wells at the headwaters of the wild and scenic Hoback River, just south of Jackson Hole. Their plans would have soiled clean mountain water, ruined recreation and tourism and disrupted one of the largest wildlife migration corridors in America. 

At Wilderness, we share the belief with you that our brightest public lands – places like the Wyoming Range - shouldn’t be the target of the oil and gas industry.  Some places are just too special to drill.  The effort by oil and gas to ‘Frack the Hoback’ was simply a bad idea and we stood up to them.

After seven years of working together with local people and our members, we are proud to report the Hoback Basin is officially saved. This week, our partners at The Trust for Public Land announced the outright purchase and retirement of the underlying oil and gas leases in the Hoback area.   With these leases retired, the Wild and Scenic Hoback Basin will never be threatened again. 

This victory is the latest in a series of milestones in the Wyoming Range.  In 2009, we passed the Wyoming Range Legacy Act, which withdrew over one million acres from future drilling.   Piece by piece, we are working diligently to guide oil and gas development away from our wildest public lands. 

At Wilderness, we appreciate all the letters of thanks we get from members and supporters across the country. We wanted to share a recent note we received from a member who would have been impacted by drilling in the Hoback:

“Vicki and I just want to offer you a huge bottomless thank you for all you've done in the foreground and background of the efforts on the Wyoming Range and Hoback running all these 7 years I can remember. This whole thing is such an affirmation of cooperative citizen efforts.  If government only worked this well.  Your selfless dedication to something higher is so clear.  I hope how this thing really worked gets into a book or is somehow shared to teach others what is possible.” -Pete Doenges

Thanks, Pete and Vicki. We appreciate that.  It’s not over yet.  Other companies are still vying to drill tens of thousands more acres further south.  But rest assured - at Wilderness, we have no plans of standing down until the Wyoming Range is secure.  It’s a little thing we call commitment.

Another lease-buyout probably isn’t feasible, nor should it be a long-term solution for protecting our most special places from oil and gas threats.  Instead, the smartest approach is to insist on landscape scale planning that recognizes wild places and guides oil and gas development away from these areas by preventing the government from carelessly handing out oil and gas leases.

Working together with our members and our local grassroots supporters, we are confident we can save the entire Wyoming Range and lift the siege for good. Momentum is on our side, as is the will of the public. With your continued support we will get this done.