Responding to protests from the governor and environmental groups, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office in Wyoming pulled 13 of the 229 parcels that had been scheduled for auction last Tuesday. The 13 parcels encompass about 28,500 acres in the Upper North Platte Valley near Encampment and Saratoga, WY.

"We are currently in the process of updating our Rawlins Resource Management Plan (RMP) and want to address new concerns raised by the State of Wyoming," said BLM's Wyoming State Director Bob Bennett. "We don't want to offer the parcels until we make sure leasing in the area is in conformance with the upcoming RMP revision."

The proposed leases dropped from the sale mainly are located in the Encampment-Riverside area near the Medicine Bow National Forest boundary where the North Platte River flows north. The Encampment River, Huston Park, Platte River and Savage Run wildernesses are located on either side of the valley.

Deferring the leases appeared to result from about 70 protests filed with BLM. The Rawlins, WY, BLM office noted that it hosted several meetings to garner public input for the RMP, and state and local agencies worked with BLM to develop the RMP revisions. The initial public input on the lease sale had been positive, the agency noted.

"At that time no new information was provided on the Saratoga area that would change the current status of these lands being available for oil and gas leasing," the BLM stated. "The lease offering of these parcels is specifically provided for by the Great Divide Resource Management Plan." The BLM also has a memorandum of understanding with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, which "reviewed all these parcels before they were offered for sale and they agreed that the parcels could be offered for sale, with the wildlife restrictions BLM had proposed to be attached to these lands."

However, BLM "later received a differing recommendation" from Gov. Dave Freudenthal, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Also objecting were several environmental groups, including the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. The partnership represents hunting and fishing organizations.

"In light of these new positions, BLM decided to defer the parcels," the agency stated. The BLM uses lease deferrals to ensure that all parcels offered " comply fully with all applicable laws and regulations."

©Copyright 2007 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.