Private Citizens Protect Public Lands: Conservation Effort Proves Some Places Are Too Special To Drill

by Tom Kenworthy

A three-month fundraising sprint has saved a revered slice of the Wyoming Range in central Wyoming from oil and gas drilling.

The Trust for Public Land announced in October it had purchased oil and gas leases on 58,000 acres of the Bridger-Teton National Forest from the company planning on drilling the area, but needed to raise $8.75 million to finalize the deal.

The area under threat – known as both the Noble Basin and Hoback Basin – was featured last July in a video produced by the Center for American Progress. It is a place loved by residents of western Wyoming for its hunting, fishing and other recreation opportunities. Rich in wildlife, the area is important habitat for elk, deer, moose, antelope and other species. It also contains the headwaters of a stretch of the Hoback River that was previously designated by Congress as a wild and scenic river.

Watch a short documentary on the area:

The fundraising success comes as the 2011-2012 session of Congress adjourned after earning the dubious distinction of being the first Congress since 1966 that failed to designate any new federal wilderness areas. The effort to save the Hoback through private fundraising could spur similar efforts, including one in Colorado to protect an area known as the Thompson Divide.

Among the donations that helped save the Hoback was a $1,500 gift of union dues from steelworkers in Rock Springs, WY. Two other large gifts were critical: $4.25 million from Hansjorg Wyss, a noted conservationist and philanthropist who lives in Wilson, Wyoming; and Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade, who has a ranch along the Hoback River near the threatened drilling site.

Will Rogers, president of the Trust for Public Land, hailed the protection of the Hoback Basin, saying, “I can’t think of a better way to start off the New Year. This solution honors the wishes of the people of Wyoming and protects a vital corner of Greater Yellowstone for generations to come.”

Tom Kenworthy is a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

4 Responses to Private Citizens Protect Public Lands: Conservation Effort Proves Some Places Are Too Special To Drill

  1. Jim Baird says:

    A similar campaign could resolve the climate problem in total. What is needed is to convert the energy powering storms like Sandy into the energy of our children’s future.

    Join the campaign

  2. rollin says:

    All places are too special and precious to drill or mine. Why do we have to pay three times for land that is already ours? Why do we give the power to others to wreck our world and then pay for the product of the wreckage, which further destroys the world?

    Next they will expect us to pay to fix it, as if that were possible. That would be the fourth time we paid for it. When are we going to stop allowing this?

  3. Kim says:

    This story leaves out a larger, more important issue that such conservation efforts overlook. While is it nice that the Upper Hoback will not be drilled, I raise this question. Wouldn’t the money time and effort needed to protect this ecosystem have been better used to start an effort by all environmental organization to launch a public campaign to combat climate change. Let me put it more bluntly. What good does it do to protect the Upper Hoback if in 10, 20 or 30 years the ecosystem has been changed beyond recognition due to climate change? The Bridger-Teton National Forest is already highly stressed by beetle kill. Likely it will get worse. Drilling may have been prevented, but in the not too distant future the ecosystem “saved” will no longer exist unless REAL action on climate change happens soon. It looks like the U.S. government is not serious about doing anything. More public pressure must be brought to bear!

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Playing protection money to standover merchants so that they do not destroy the natural world that nurtures us is preposterous, immoral and repugnant. But, hey, that’s capitalism for you! They’ll probably take it back under ’eminent domain’ or some other nonsense some time in the future. Under capitalism nothing is ever safe so long as the prospect of destroying it in return for money remains. The ghouls always come back for more.