Over 24,000 acres of land southeast of Jackson were retired from oil and gas drilling Tuesday after The Trust for Public Land acquired the leases.
“It’s not always an easy process,” Trust for Public Land Senior Project Manager Chris Deming said, “and we want to thank those people that really got us there.”
The agreement involved a handful of entities, including Stanley Energy and Mountain Energy, companies that held the leases, a “generous grant” from the Wyss Foundation, and the Bureau of Land Management, which will process the paperwork to retire the leases in perpetuity.
The Wyoming Range is home to a slew of wildlife, including moose, elk, mule deer and antelope. Conservationists have worried drilling would disrupt the migration of such animals as well as disturb their habitat.
“Today is a great day for Wyoming and for all those who are passionate about public lands,” Wyss Foundation President Molly McUsic said.
“We applaud all who have given their time and resources over years and look forward to a future in which the Wyoming Range remains undeveloped and open to all,” she said.
The land falls in the Wyoming Range’s Noble Basin. Most is within Sublette County, though some of the acreage spills into Lincoln County.
The land is south and west of another 58,000 acres stayed from drilling in 2012.
That agreement, which totaled $8.75 million, also involved The Trust For Public Land, which navigated the final handshake with Plains Exploration and Production Company, known as PXP.
When asked the cost of Tuesday’s 24,197-acre acquisition, an agreement two years in the making, Deming said he couldn’t reveal the amount.
“The details around the acquisition are part of a contract that I can’t disclose,” he said.
The Wyss Foundation, which provided the money to purchase the leases, also fronted approximately $750,000 of the $8.75 million needed to acquire the adjacent acres in 2012.
The 24,000 acres of newly retired leases abut another swath of 21,000 acres of oil and gas leases also slated for retirement.
The 21,000 acres of “contested leases” were settled Tuesday by the the U.S. Department of Interior. More details on that deal were not available by press time.
With the two deals struck Tuesday, the total nondrillable acreage in the Wyoming Range tips over 100,000 acres.
The lands fall within the boundary of the Wyoming Range Legacy Act, which drew a line around roughly 100 miles and 1.2 million acres of land in Western Wyoming. Acres within the boundary, set by a bill passed in 2009, are protected from new oil and gas leasing.
Expired and retired leases cannot be re-enacted.
“The Wyoming Range offers vistas, great outdoor recreation and diverse wildlife habitat,” Gov. Matt Mead said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “The [Bureau of Land Management] has worked with these companies to close out these leases and provide a good balance of development and environmental considerations.”