Last May a large number of public comments played an important role in the deferral of a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oil lease in the Dean area.
While the BLM is not currently considering any leases in Stillwater or Carbon County, there is a lease being considered along the Beartooth Front in northern Wyoming, just over the Montana border south of Belfry, that you should be concerned about and may want to comment on.
Note that the deadline for public comment is Monday, February 23.
Why this should concern you
Any development of federal land along the Beartooth Front is a matter of concern, but this proposed lease sale hits particularly close to home. It includes land adjacent to the Clark Fork River, just upstream from areas of Carbon County. Any risk to this river endangers downstreamareas between there and the Yellowstone.
Even more frightening is that the proposed lease abuts areas that have suffered significant impacts from oil and gas drilling in the past. If you haven’t done so, read the personal story of Deb Thomas and the well blowout in 2006 that continues to adversely affect the area today.
Background: The BLM leasing process
The BLM leasing process is governed by a resource management plan (RMP) and associated environmental impact statement (EIS). Together they provide a framework for managing BLM-administered lands and federal minerals.
In the Cody field office of Wyoming, the RMP is currently being revised, as it is in Montana. Each revision is important, since the RMP is only updated every 25 years or so.
Leases on BLM land are put up for sale when there is a request from a company that wants to exploit mineral resources. The process is governed by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to integrate environmental values into their decision making processes by considering the environmental impacts of their proposed actions and reasonable alternatives to those actions.
To meet NEPA requirements federal agencies prepare a detailed statement known as an environmental assessment. EPA reviews and comments on environmental assessments prepared by other federal agencies, maintains a national filing system for all assessments, and assures that its own actions comply with NEPA.
The environmental assessment involves two steps:
- Public Scoping: This step involves the community in determining whether there are environmental impacts that need to be considered. These impacts might include:
- Significant natural resources such as ecosystems and threatened and endangered species;
- Commercial and recreational fisheries;
- Current recreational uses of the land and waterways;
- effects on water users;
- Effects of potential controls on current lake and waterway uses such as flood risk management, commercial and recreational navigation, recreation, water supply, hydropower and conveyance of effluent from wastewater treatment plants and other industries; and
- Statutory and legal responsibilities relative to use of land and water.
2. Preliminary environmental assessment: Public review of preliminary environmental assessment. This process takes 30 days before the final environmental assessment.
Directions for sending comments
Comments should be sent via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. They must be sent by Monday, February 23.
Comments should be referenced as:
RE: August 2015 Oil and Gas Lease Sale Parcel Environmental Assessment, BLM parcel WY-1508-237
and sent to:
Resource Advisor – Energy
Wind River / Bighorn Basin District
101 S. 23rd Street,
Worland, Wyoming 82401
RE: BLM parcel WY-1508-237
Be sure to say that you support the deferral of parcel WY-1508-237, currently being considered for August, 2015 sale.
These are points you may want to make in your comments:
- Parcel WY 1508-237 lies within greater sage-grouse general habitat and is within a four-mile buffer of an occupied lek.
- Parcel WY 1508-237 provides seasonal range for bighorn sheep, elk, moose, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, mountain goat, and white-tailed deer. It is habitat for black and grizzly bear, wolves, mountain lion, bobcat, and red fox. A broad diversity of bird life is also present in the area.
- This parcel includes and is adjacent to public lands extremely important for hunting, fishing and recreation that includes hiking, biking, horseback riding, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. These are uses that depend on clean air, clean water and a healthy outdoor environment. These recreational activities bring important revenue to the area, the state of Wyoming and the region.
- Leasing of mineral resources should not occur where people live. WY 1508-237 includes privately held surface lands, including property in the Line Creek Wilderness Subdivision. The rural residential subdivision consists of 90 lots that vary in size and include approximately 54 landowners.
We’ll keep you updated on developments regarding this lease.