After a two-year moratorium, drill rigs may soon
rumble into action in the Thunder Basin National Grassland. The
Forest Service has rejected an appeal by the Wyoming chapter of the
Sierra Club and Friends of the Bow to reduce oil and gas leasing
within the nearly 2 million-acre grassland in northeastern Wyoming.
The decision "just shows the power the oil and gas industry has
over the Forest Service," Sierra Club spokesman Kirk Koepsel told
the Casper Star-Tribune. The two environmental groups had hoped the
agency would exempt 25,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land
from drilling, as proposed in an earlier Forest Service
environmental impact statement. The approved plan excludes only
7,000 acres. Medicine Bow National Forest Supervisor Jerry Schmidt,
who oversees management of Thunder Basin, says he believes the plan
will "protect the many values and qualities of the area and still
allow the continued use of a resource."