Readers already know that a Texas oil company holds drilling leases in one of the best pieces of forest in the Wyoming Range. These leases happen to be a place where my friends and neighbors have gone year after year to hunt for elk, mule deer, and moose.
Until recently, our hunting camp in the northeast corner of the Wyoming Range has been, for us, all about the pre-dawn light, the smell of sage and pine, and the haunting sound of elk bugling in the backcountry.
But our hunting camp is now at the center of a public discussion about whether and how we should build an industrial development in one of the most special places in Wyoming.
Just a few days ago the company that holds drilling leases, called Plains Exploration and Production, got together with a couple outfitters and made a pitch: they proposed that Plains retire 28,000 acres of drilling leases elsewhere in the Range, and in exchange the company would have the freedom to drill and carve up our hunting area for the next 30 years.
We aren’t here to kick dirt on their intentions. We think the idea to cut a deal is a good one.
Everybody wants to find a solution that will do the most good for the most people. But the fact is that this was a private proposal that was crafted behind closed doors without any input from the people it would affect the most -- people who deserve to have a say. Those of us who use this forest and love this forest.
And it's worth remembering that this is our forest. It doesn’t belong to Texas oil companies and it doesn't belong to people in Washington, D.C. We were not invited when a deal was drawn up at some board room table in Houston to drill up our forest.
Sidestepping regular Wyoming people in a deal like this isn’t right. We need to make sure the Bridger-Teton National Forest takes this proposal for what it is: one Texas company's opening bid in a larger negotiation. Now it's time for the forest to bring more stakeholders to the table and hammer out a better deal that makes more sense for more people by including the public in these negotiations.
We do think the company's proposal is a good first step.
But there’s a lot more to consider and a fair number of voices still to be heard. This is no time to leave local hunters out in the cold. Let's build on what the company has offered and make it a much better deal.
DAVE WILLOUGHBY, Daniel