With an eleventh-hour donation, a regional unit of the national Trust for Public Land (TPL) said Wednesday it completed an $8.75 million transaction with Plains Exploration and Production Co. (PXP) to acquire and retire oil and natural gas leases in the Wyoming Range.

TPL said the transaction was completed at the year-end 2012 deadline through a “broad coalition” of environmental organizations, concerned citizens and more than 1,000 donors. The deal covers 58,000 acres in the Hoback Basin.

“The acquisition means that affected land inside the Bridger-Teton National Forest near Grand Teton National Park will be forever saved from oil/gas drilling and preserved for hunting, fishing and recreation,” a TPL spokesperson said

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said the TPL deal was “indicative of Wyoming’s continued success in balancing the environment, energy production and the economy.” Mead said the PXP agreement protects the “intrinsic qualities of a special area and respects the rights of a private company.”

More than $8 million had been raised early in December, but Deb Love, director for the Trust’s Northern Rockies chapter, told local news media that she didn’t have a specific number for how much was still needed as the deadline for closing the deal neared (see Daily GPI, Jan. 2).

The largest donor to the effort was businessman and philanthropist Hansjorg Wyss from Wilson, WY, who contributed $4.25 million through his charitable foundation. The Wyss Foundation was created in 1989 to “help western communities conserve iconic parks and landscapes.”

Wyss said the deal with PXP was “a practical solution to protect an iconic western landscape” through the efforts of communities coming together in the effort led by TPL.

Another individual donor, entrepreneur/philanthropist Joe Ricketts, gave $1.75 million, the TPL spokesperson said, including an 11th-hour gift of $750,000 that “propelled the campaign across the finish line.” Ricketts praised “an outpouring of support that was inspiring and demonstrates how much the people of Wyoming value the outdoors and how hard we’ll work to protect our natural resources.”

PXP, which is an exploration and production (E&P) company in California’s Monterey Shale and other areas of that state, last year abandoned plans to drill in western Wyoming, agreeing instead to sell oil and natural gas leases on 58,000 acres in the Hoback Basin of the Wyoming Range to the conservation group (see Daily GPI, Oct. 9).

Some in the environmental and energy sectors have characterized the deal as historic and a possible model for future conservation agreements. TPL agreed to pay $8.75 million for Houston-based PXP’s leases, which effectively ended the E&P company’s plans to drill 136 gas wells near the Hoback River headwaters.

At the time, TPL had raised about $4.5 million toward the purchase and expected to have the full amount ready when the transaction was set to close at the end of December.

Wyoming’s Range Legacy Act prohibits oil and gas development on 1.2 million acres of the Wyoming Range paralleling the state’s western boundary with Idaho. Nearly 85% of the acreage involved in the PXP leases lies within the area protected by the law.

©Copyright 2013Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news reportmay not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in anyform, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.