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Wyoming Governor Calls for Delay in Leasing National Forest Land to Oil, Gas Producers

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal said the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) should put a stop to leasing land in the Bridger-Teton national forest for oil and gas exploration and production until existing appeals of a lease sale that was held in December are resolved. Freudenthal has asked BLM to postpone an April 4 lease sale that will offer up 19,000 acres of Bridger-Teton land.

"This proposed sale follows a contentious lease sale held in December, which has been the subject of formal appeals. I ask that the April sale be suspended until such time as the December sale appeals are resolved," Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal said in a letter to Jack Troyer, regional forester USDA Forest Service, and Bob Bennett, Wyoming state director of the BLM.

"To do otherwise," Freudenthal said, would be "perceived by many as a predetermination of the existing appeals."

He noted that 44,000 acres have been slated for oil and gas leasing in the Bridger-Teton. "Such leasing has raised the ire of a varied range of groups and constituencies. In the spirit of administrative and judicial economy, and with the knowledge that there are likely to be a significant number of substantively and procedurally similar appeals that come as a result of all future leasing in the Bridger-Teton, it seems logical to resolve the December sale appeals before offering additional parcels for lease."

Freudenthal and U.S. Forest Service officials recently reached an agreement underscoring protection of roadless area values in Wyoming. Under the memorandum of understanding signed between the state and the Forest Service, no additional oil and gas and mineral leases will be approved within inventoried roadless areas on the Bridger-Teton and Shoshone national forests until leasing availability decisions are made.

Suitability of lands for oil and gas leasing will be evaluated during the forest plan revision process. Later leasing decisions will identify specific acres in the suitable land use areas where leasing may occur -- and the specific stipulations that will apply.

"While I'm appreciative that the Forest Service has agreed to delay future leasing in roadless areas, I remain concerned about the conditions and terms under which they propose to issue the authorized leases that are included in the 44,000 acres," Freudenthal said.

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