Oil leasing sparks debate


The U.S. Forest Service's proposal to open 370,000 acres south of Yellowstone National Park to oil and gas leasing is drawing opposition. The proposal centers on Wyoming, home to wildlife, including wolves and grizzly bears. Environmentalists say drilling threatens the area that serves as a wildlife corridor between the Gros Ventre and Bridger wilderness areas. "Once a company buys the privilege to lease, there is no point of return," says Caroline Byrd, an attorney with the Wyoming Outdoor Council. The Forest Service initially planned a brief environmental assessment of the project; now, the agency has decided to complete a more comprehensive environmental impact statement. The study, still in the preliminary "scoping" phase, has already drawn 1,500 comments, most of them opposing the development, according to Forest Service spokesman Scott Fitzwilliams. "This is going to be bigger than the Rocky Mountain Front," he says.

Though the comment period for scoping ended Feb. 2, you can direct questions to the Bridger National Forest, P.O. Box 1888, Jackson, WY 83001, 307/739-5500, or call the Wyoming Outdoor Council at 307/332-7031.