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Forest Service Withdraws Plan to Issue Oil and Gas Leases Near Yellowstone

Responding to intense public opposition -- including detailed legal objections by Earthjustice -- the Forest Service has withdrawn plans for imminent oil and gas leasing across a broad swath of scenic national forest lands south of Yellowstone National Park. The leasing would have paved the way for oil and gas development on nearly 158,000 acres in the Wyoming Range of western Wyoming's Bridger-Teton National Forest, including 92,000 acres of pristine roadless areas that provide habitat for wildlife species ranging from elk to Canada lynx. Acting on behalf of a coalition of conservation groups, Earthjustice sent a letter to the Forest Service in August detailing numerous legal violations in connection with the proposed leases, which were scheduled to be auctioned to oil and gas companies beginning this October. The letter asked the Forest Service to withdraw the proposed leasing, and threatened a lawsuit if the agency refused. Read the Earthjustice letter. (pdf file)

In the wake of the Earthjustice letter, the Forest Service faced a rising tide of public opposition to the proposed leasing, including standing-room-only public meetings in Jackson Hole and Alpine, Wyoming, and objections from Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal and Sen. Craig Thomas. Finally, on September 14 the Forest Service yielded to this opposition by withdrawing the proposed leases from auction pending further environmental study.