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Pinedale RMP Considers Relaxed Wildlife Rules in Gas-Prone Areas

Wyoming Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials would relax wildlife restrictions in most of the natural gas-rich areas of the Jonah field and Pinedale Anticline under a draft plan to be issued for public comment Friday. Once finalized, the Pinedale Resource Management Plan (RMP) is expected to guide oil and gas development for at least 10 years on more than two million acres of public and private land.

The RMP and draft environmental impact statement, when approved, would affect Wyoming land in Sublette, Lincoln and Fremont counties. Four alternative plans were developed. Under the "preferred" alternative, Trapper's Point and most of the area east of Highway 191 and south of Pinedale would be off-limits to energy development. However, wildlife restrictions would be relaxed in the Jonah field and Pinedale Anticline, where most of the gas exploration is taking place.

The preferred alternative would allow 1.025 million acres for energy development. About 14,000 acres, which include several cultural sites, would be withdrawn from "locatable mineral entry and land disposal." Of the 350,000-plus acres protected under the preferred plan, about 205,000 could be accessed by directional drilling or other technology to minimize surface disturbance. Another 156,900 acres would be considered "unavailable" for leasing.

The draft documents estimate that the energy industry could drill 7,136 wells (5,136 vertical wells and 2,000 directional wells), which would result in 42,180 acres of short-term disturbance and 17,330 acres of long-term disturbance.

Based on input from the public and BLM, 10 key issues or "unresolved conflicts" were identified: energy resources development; land tenure adjustments; vegetation management; cultural and paleontological resource management; off-road vehicle management; wild land/urban interface; special status species management; water quality; special management designations; and wildlife habitat, including greater sage grouse.

The plans were jointly developed by the Department of the Interior, BLM, the Environmental Protection Agency, the state of Wyoming and several county-level entities. The public comment period is expected to begin Friday and end May 18. Visit the Pinedale RMP website for information, or contact Kellie Roadifer, Planning & Environmental Coordinator, BLM, Pinedale Field Office, P.O. Box 768, Pinedale, WY 82941; (307) 367-5309; pinedale_wymail@blm.gov.

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