By Steven Brutger, Wyoming Energy Coordinator
We had big grins on our face. Bouncing down a dusty gravel road in the dark. Gas station burritos in hand and the radio blaring an old George Straight tune. Sleeping under the stars we awoke to frost covering our bags. Fingers numb, I was rigged up and fishing as the sun crept over the ridge.
For the next twelve hours we drove dirt roads all over the range and fished every likely spot we could find. We caught one brookie. We wanted a cuttie. This was 2011 and summer came late to the Wyoming Range. The water was still high and ice cold. We couldn’t buy a fish. Exhausted and almost out of gas we retreated to Los Cabos in Big Piney.
The Wyoming Range is our mountain range…the states namesake range. I’m not sure how it came to bear this honor, but whatever the reason the name fits.
Why, because the Wyoming Range is used by all of us. For all the things that make this state great. Big deer, native trout, family’s with campers, snowmobiles, you name it. It has hard to reach creeks where no one will ever find you. And easy to access places where any one can jump in the truck, leave the work week behind, and be in the mountains by sunset.
For years sportsmen have stuck up for our range, making sure it stays just like it is. Wild and unbridled. With all the sticking up we’ve been doing many of us are simply tired and confused when it comes to protecting the Wyoming Range. From the Legacy Act, to a lease buy out in the Hoback to even more leases it’s hard to keep it straight.
We should be done. I would like to be done, but the reality is we aren’t. We’ve done a lot, but through an ironic twist of administrative fate 44 thousand acres of oil and gas leases still remain in the balance. From Horse Creek to South Cottonwood, these leases contain some of the best fish and wildlife habitat in the range, along with the best sporting opportunities.
It was these leases that started it all. In 2005 Sportsmen stood up and said enough is enough when these leases were put on the auction block. This event was the catalyst for all the protection that has occurred in the range. Now we need to finish what we started and encourage the Forest Service to take these leases off the table once and for all.
With thousands of wells proposed in the Upper Green River Basin over the coming years it makes sense to protect this relatively small patch of country that would yield at most a couple hundred wells. In return the Eastern Gateway to the Wyoming Range will remain accessible to all. Containing the healthy trout and abundant big game we all enjoy.
Right now more analysis is being done and papers are being pushed around behind closed doors. As opposed to the sound bites and rapid paced news cycle we have become accustomed to, this is part of how decisions are made. It can be a moving target, but the Forest Service is expecting to release a decision next fall. We are in constant contact with decision makers and when the time comes we all need to be ready to tell the Forest Service that we want to finish what we started and put these leases to bed.
In the meantime if you come across a muddy/grey Dodge parked somewhere in the Wyoming Range, come say hello. It might be me searching for warmer water and a cuttie that wants to come out of hiding to smack a dry fly. I will likely have a cold beer or two in the truck and we can raise a toast to the Wyoming Range…our Mountains.
For more information contact Steven Brutger, Wyoming Energy Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org