Energy workers, union members protest drilling

 

In Wyoming, the outcry against oil and gas drilling is getting louder — and now it’s coming from some unlikely quarters.

Since 2005, the Bureau of Land Management has been auctioning off parcels in the Wyoming Range of the Bridger-Teton National Forest for oil and gas development. The most recent lease sale on June 6 drew protests not only from the usual suspects — ranchers, conservationists and homeowners — but also from union members and oil and gas workers concerned about their recreation lands. The Wyoming AFL-CIO formally protested the energy leases, a first for the state’s labor union.

"(The Bridger-Teton forest) is really the everyman’s playground," says Tom Reed of Trout Unlimited, which also protested the 12,000-acre lease. People enjoy hunting, fishing, four-wheeling, and other recreational activities in the forest, he says. It’s also the summering ground of thousands of mule deer, and hosts elk, moose, wolves, grizzly bears and cutthroat trout.

Jeff Boula of Evanston, Wyo., who works as an oil-field safety technician, collected signatures from fellow energy workers for Trout Unlimited’s protest letter. He says many parcels in southwestern Wyoming’s sage flats have already been leased but haven’t been drilled for lack of rigs and workers. Those parcels aren’t pristine: "There are roads and traffic going by all the time," says Boula. But the Wyoming Range, he says, "it’s my getaway."

If the BLM overrules the protests, Trout Unlimited, the labor union and others plan to appeal.