A Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee plans to consider legislation later this month that could decide whether new energy development would be allowed on 1.2 million acres of the Wyoming Range.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) said his Wyoming Range Legacy Act of 2007, which was introduced in October, will be heard on Feb. 27 by the Public Lands and Forests Subcommittee (see Daily GPI, Oct. 29, 2007). Barrasso’s predecessor, Republican Sen. Craig Thomas, had planned to introduce similar legislation last year but he died of leukemia in June.

The legislation would protect the Wyoming Range from future energy development and allow existing leases to be bought back to preserve the land.

“The Wyoming Range represents the heart and soul of Wyoming and a wonder for those that come from all over to experience it,” Barrasso said. “This hearing is a monumental step toward enhancing the tourism, recreation, grazing and hunting economy of the Wyoming Range. The bill will preserve the range as a key part of Wyoming’s natural heritage.”

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal has asked the U.S. Forest Service to delay action on a proposed plan to allow energy development in the Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) of the Wyoming Range (see Daily GPI, Feb. 12). The Forest Service in December issued a proposed plan to allow 136 new gas wells to be drilled by Plains Exploration and Production Co. along the South Rim Unit in a portion of the BTNF, which is part of the gas-rich Pinedale Field (see Daily GPI, Dec. 12, 2007).

The proposal followed a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) issued earlier in 2007 by the BTNF, which was in response to a request from PXP to drill an exploratory gas well and possibly two additional wells on the same drill pad at its Eagle Prospect. PXP’s leases were originally bought in 1994, according to the Forest Service.

The Forest Service may propose a course of action by May, and it could make a final decision by early 2009.

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