|photo: Hoback River hike by Pacheco, Flickr|
The Upper Hoback is a crucial priority area and a species of greatest conservation need area by Fish and Game. It is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and is home to the headwaters of the Wild and Scenic Hoback River. It is also largely untracked and prime hunting grounds - mule deer, elk, moose, and pronghorn antelope live in the region.
Oh, another thing: the Upper Hoback also contains a supply of natural gas. The Houston-based Plains Exploration and Production Company (PXP) owns 58,000+ acres of federal oil and gas leases in the Upper Hoback.
The Wyoming Range Legacy Act protects the Wyoming Range from future energy development, but it exempts preexisting leases. As a result PXP was able to file their plans to drill 136 natural gas wells in the Hoback. (Those wells would be serviced by 29 miles of roads and associated infrastructure.)
Fortunately, the Wyoming Range Legacy Act also permits any leaseholder to sell or donate their lease back to the federal government for retirement. On Oct 5 TPL's Northern Rockies Director Deb Love announced that after six months of negotiations, TPL has reached a historic agreement for the purchase of PXP's 58,000+ acres of federal oil and gas leases in the Upper Hoback. This victory was the result of a partnership with The Wilderness Society, Wyoming Outdoor Council, American Rivers, and Citizens for the Wyoming Range.
Wyoming residents (and Governor Matt Mead) are celebrating:
Why would PXP agree to this? This article provided some insight:
"PXP has repeatedly stated our willingness to consider a buyout of our lease position if a valid offer was tendered," PXP vice president Steve Rusch said in a statement. … Low natural gas prices (also) played a role in the agreement. Rusch said PXP has been shifting away from low-margin natural gas toward higher-priced oil in recent years.
But it's not done, yet. Can you help buy the leases from PXP? TPL needs to raise $8.75 million for the lease by December 31, 2012. Can you contribute $150? That would buy an acre of land. Or maybe a part of an acre, for less money? (To be clear, you won't actually own the land - the leases on the 58,000+ acres would be retired and given to the federal government.) Contributions accepted on the TPL website.