Documentary Short: Natural Gas Drilling Threatens The Wild Heart Of Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest

By Tom Kenworthy

Yesterday the Center for American Progress and the Sierra Club released a series of short documentary videos called “Public Lands, Private Profits.”   The first two stories profiled the new rush to extract uranium near Grand Canyon National Park and a proposed expansion of a coal mine near Bryce Canyon National Park.

Part three explores a remote corner of the Bridger-Teton National Forest and how it might be transformed by a natural gas drilling plan.

The Noble Basin sits in the shadow of the Wyoming Range, most of which was protected from energy development by Congress in 2009.  But previous leases bought by energy companies can still be developed, and that includes one proposal for 136 wells to be drilled by Plains Exploration and Production (PXP), a Texas company.

Opponents of drilling the Noble Basin say it would destroy an area that is vitally important for deer, antelope, moose, bear and other wildlife, and radically alter a way of life for people who live there or who depend on the area for hunting and other recreation.

Those who are battling PXP and urging the Forest Service to find a way out see what unbridled energy development can bring. Thousands of gas wells dot the lands near the town of Pinedale, and have turned a remote region of Wyoming into an industrial center, with huge impacts on wildlife and air quality.

The U.S. Forest Service is conducting a final environmental review of the gas drilling project.  If officials decide that tighter restrictions on drilling near existing roads apply, it’s possible that the PXP leases would be less valuable and could be bought out by those who want the Noble Basin preserved in its current wild state.

To find out more about this issue or to take action, visit the Sierra Club’s website or the Citizens for the Wyoming Range website.

Tom Kenworthy is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

2 Responses to Documentary Short: Natural Gas Drilling Threatens The Wild Heart Of Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest

  1. Jim Pettit says:

    I lived for a number of years in Lander, a town on the eastern side of the Wind River mountains at roughly the same latitude as Pinedale. Back then, ours was the “dirty” side, with much mining activity–uranium, taconite, coal–plus lots of oil drilling. When we wanted to get away to where the air was still crystal clear and the forests and sagebrush flats were unscarred by heavy equipment and the wildlife still ranged freely, we’d travel to the “clean” side of the range: Pinedale, the Noble Basin, south of Jackson, etc.

    That was still true not so long ago. But my last few trips back that way have made realize that it no longer is.

    The discovery and subsequent exploitation of the Jonah Field’s massive gas stores now means that, on an average day, Pinedale’s once tree-scented air reeks of diesel exhaust. The mountains, which used to seem so close you could almost touch them, are not even visible at times anymore as anything beyond than a vague outline glimpsed through the yellowish smog. The pronghorn and mule deer have taken cover, save for when they have to scurry along some narrow man-made fence-lined path that forces them away from the chemical-laden trucks screaming by on the highway.

    I understand progress. I’ve been around long enough to understand that electricity and gasoline doen’t magically appear out of the blue, sprinkled on us all by the Invisible Energy Fairy. But why can’t there be some common sense at work here? Why are we humans so incapable of looking ahead? Why is extrapolation so impossible for us?

    Mining at the Grand Canyon? Blasting for coal at Bryce? Drilling in the BT?


    What does it profit us to have all the energy we want if we have to lose our nation’s own soul to get it?

    Thanks, Tom.

  2. Eric Ryan says:

    I don’t understand how the states can pump money into protecting national and state forests, parks, ect. and then just turn around and allow drilling? that just doesn’t make any sense to me! if you get a chance, stop over to and see what’s the latest in daily news for the marcellus shale industry.