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Press Release

For immediate release
Date:April 27, 2005
Contact: Jennifer Lamb
(307) 335-2262

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

Lander, Wyoming – The Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) has announced its plan to lease 44,600 acres of land in the Wyoming Range for oil and gas exploration and development. Although this plan covers a smaller portion of acres in the range than the original lease package last fall, the core of the area to be leased – the Horse Creek drainages west of Merna – remains the same and overlaps a critical winter classroom for NOLS.

“From our perspective, the core of this new leasing package is the same as that of the first one considered last fall – it directly affects an area of the range that is critical to our winter education programs. We remain concerned that impact related to development will negatively affect our programs, potentially impairing our ability to operate,” said NOLS Executive Director, John Gans.

The BTNF delayed the original lease sale planned for October 2004 in order to complete additional study of the proposal and its potential impacts. Forest managers provided groups with an interest in the outcome of the decision, including NOLS, with an opportunity to express their views on leasing in the Wyoming Range. But since the BTNF based its decision on the existing Forest Plan, written in 1990, the general public did not have such an opportunity. Said Gans, “We firmly believe that much has changed in the Wyoming Range since the 1990 Forest Plan, and that the opinion of the public, apart from a handful of stakeholder groups, including NOLS, is not truly reflected in this leasing decision. While we appreciate the chance to be involved in the process, we had hoped that the Forest’s “further study” would amount to more than negotiation. The Forest Plan is due to be revised starting this year. Why not wait for the results of that process when so much has changed?”

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. Areas, such as the Wyoming Range 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.

Said Gans, “Given the increasing importance of this range to the local public and to the recreation and tourism industry in the state – an industry critical to the long-term sustainability of Wyoming’s economy – we believe that the decision to lease this portion of the Wyoming Range is short-sighted.”

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