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The Wyoming Range

How NOLS Is Involved

NOLS has led courses in the Wyoming Range for decades. Summer and winter courses embark on their expeditions from the Cliff Creek and Horse Creek trailheads, on the eastern slope of the range. It was along the Horse Creek drainage that tens of thousands of acres were selected to be leased for oil and gas development in 2004.

Trout Unlmited
Photo courtesy of Trout Unlimited

If these leases had gone through unchallenged and development was initiated, it would have had a significant impact on NOLS courses. After extensive internal deliberation, the school opted to protest the leases and cooperate with other advocacy groups and key constituents across the state to prevent damage to the landscape from oil and gas development.

NOLS was in the earliest meetings with partners that eventually coalesced into a coordinated and successful grassroots campaign. The school worked closely with Department of Agriculture officials, elected representatives, the business community, sportsmen, outfitters and guides, the Governor’s office and Wyoming’s U.S. Senator offices throughout the process.

In 2005 and 2006, NOLS protested 44,720 acres of leased land, and when the protests were denied, NOLS joined Trout Unlimited and other outfitters to appeal one of the protests to the Interior Board of Land Appeals. The Wyoming Outdoor Council, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, The Wilderness Society, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, and EarthJustice filed a concurrent appeal. The appeals resulted in the leases being remanded to the federal agencies for further environmental review.

Wyoming Range
Photo courtesy of Trout Unlimited

While the leases languished in legal limbo, NOLS joined an effort spearheaded by Trout Unlimited and other private entities to found the Sportsmen for the Wyoming Range, a group of dozens of hunting, fishing, and sportsmen organizations, united around a lasting solution to Wyoming Range concerns.

In early 2007, the Forest Service initiated a new environmental review process on the 44,720 acres. NOLS organized a public meeting in Lander to provide a forum for the public to comment on the process, and suggest desired outcomes. Over 50 unique comments were generated in an evening.

In October 2007, Senator Barrasso introduced legislation—The Wyoming Range Legacy Act—to protect the range from additional oil and gas development. In 2009, when the Omnibus Public Land Management Act, of which the Wyoming Range Legacy Act had become a component, was struggling to find sufficient votes in the U.S. House, NOLS initiated a grassroots calling campaign and called almost 500 NOLS alumni in 20 key congressional districts across the country. These calls generated an estimated 10 to 20 constituent calls from NOLS alumni per district.

When the vote passed, half of the swing votes that had moved to favor the bill were in districts targeted by NOLS.

NOLS continues to monitor how federal agencies implement the Act, and strongly supports the cancellation of the remaining contested leases covering 44,720 acres. In the summer of 2009, the BLM canceled roughly half of these leases. In the spring of 2010, the Forest Service indicated that it intends to cancel the rest of them.

Stretching south for over 100 miles from Jackson Hole in western Wyoming, the namesake Wyoming Range has long been a key destination for NOLS courses.

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