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Press Release

For immediate release
Date: August 16, 2004
Contact: Jennifer Lamb
(307) 335-2262

NOLS Objects to Oil and Gas Leasing in the Bridger-Teton National Forest

Lander, Wyoming – The Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) has consented to lease more than 100,000 acres of land in the Wyoming Range for oil and gas exploration and development. This news triggers alarm at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), which counts the Bridger-Teton National Forest, including the Wind River and Wyoming mountain ranges, as one of its most critical classrooms.

Based in Lander since its inception in 1965, NOLS has taught wilderness skills and leadership to more than 75,000 students from around the world on expeditions lasting from two weeks to three months. Wyoming roadless areas, such as those found in the Wyoming Range and proposed for lease in October, are critical to NOLS programs because of their relatively undisturbed natural characteristics and the opportunities they offer for hands-on learning and extended wilderness experience.

“We are concerned that the natural qualities of the Range will be negatively affected by the new road construction, noise, dust, disruption of wildlife, and other impacts related to oil and gas operations”, said NOLS Executive Director, John Gans. “Our programs rely on these natural qualities – we don’t want to lose them.”

NOLS, one of Fremont County’s largest private employers, has been a permitted, fee-paying operator on the BTNF for more than three decades. The school represents a rapidly growing sector of Wyoming’s economy – recreation and tourism – the future of which relies on healthy public lands managed for long-term sustainability. NOLS believes that recreation and tourism are and will continue to be critical factors in diversifying Wyoming’s economy and helping to balance the State’s historical boom and bust pattern associated with heavy reliance on resource extraction. But a healthy recreation and tourism sector requires that Wyoming’s wild places remain just that. “There are fewer and fewer places in the west that can support programs like ours that provide true wilderness education for the future leaders of outdoor recreation programs”, said Gans. “Students receive college credit for completion of a NOLS education, but we can’t teach it in an indoor classroom.”

In 2005, the BTNF is slated to begin revising its 15-year forest management plan, a process intended to evaluate the overall use, condition, and demands on the forest, and chart a sustainable course for long-term management. Based on changes that have occurred on the BTNF and on public land surrounding it, NOLS has requested that the BTNF complete this planning process before leasing in the Wyoming Range, an action that will have long-term effects on the Forest and the region, and will certainly affect the quality of NOLS educational programs.

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