Chalk up a win for Wyoming wildlands
Here’s a rare victory for the wilderness crowd: The U.S. Forest Service announced this week that it will suspend plans to open 157,000 acres of Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest — much of it roadless — to oil and gas drilling. Enviros say the forest is one of the most important wild areas in the country to have been marked by the Bush administration for drilling. Local and national conservation groups organized resistance, as did many ranchers, hunters, and anglers. Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D), a moderate who has long backed the natural-gas industry, also spoke out in opposition. But the turning point came when Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) declared that the area is “inappropriate for drilling.” Hours after his statement, the agency announced that it would delay implementation of the lease until concerns were resolved. Enviros hailed the decision, industry groups expressed frustration, and the world learned that a single Republican voice raised in defense of our natural resources can move mountains — or have them left alone, as the case may be.