The oil and gas industry has nearly 7,200 permits to drill on public lands that it has yet to use. The unused, but still valid, drilling permits paint a starkly different picture from what industry and some in Congress have argued is a concerted effort by the Obama administration to lock up federal lands to energy production, said Dave Alberswerth, senior policy adviser on energy issues for the Wilderness Society and a former Interior Department official in the Clinton administration.
Of the seven major oil and gas EISs now in the works in Wyoming, none have gotten to the “draft” stage. Once a draft is issued, stakeholders can better predict when the process might be completed. But in the early stages of the process, Ulrich said the scope and detail of the analysis seems to have greatly expanded.
“More and more is analyzed under the umbrella of an EIS,” said Ulrich, adding that the analysis includes more air pollutants than before, and more animal species.
The Bureau of Land Management has identified nearly a quarter-million acres in northwest Wyoming that may have wilderness characteristics and should be studied for possible protection as “wild lands” under the agency’s upcoming revision of its Bighorn Basin resource management plan (RMP). The areas include more than 50,000 acres of unprotected land just east of Cody, Wyo., known as the Whistle Creek and Rough Gulch units, that border the 11,350-acre McCullough Peaks Wilderness Study Area, which BLM protected after an earlier wilderness inventory in 1980.