Lander, WY—This week the Bureau of Land Management is moving forward with an oil and gas lease sale in the Northern Red Desert, leaving outfitting, guiding, and outdoor recreation providers in the area with an uncertain future. NOLS is concerned that oil and gas development will fragment this treasured Wyoming landscape and reduce its value for tourism and recreation businesses. Over 100 square miles of public land in the area, surrounded by National Conservation Lands and crossed by National Historic Trails, is currently on the auction block.
“For NOLS and other operators, the Northern Red Desert is a key destination and it is important to our business operations,” said Jen Sall, NOLS Rocky Mountain Director. “NOLS students are awed by at the vastness, the rich natural and human history, and the incredible dark nights in this place. The landscape is transformative.”
With two major back-to-back oil and gas lease sales planned in September and December 2018 covering over 1,000,000 acres of federal minerals, the Bureau of Land Management has entered an aggressive phase of energy leasing. Constrained timelines for commenting and opposing the sale make it hard for operators like NOLS to make a case for the importance of the area to our business.
Most of NOLS’ horsepacking courses are run out of the NOLS Three Peaks Ranch near Boulder, Wyoming. NOLS has been teaching horsepacking skills to students for decades in the broad steppes between historic Northern Red Desert features like the Oregon Buttes, Continental Peak, Steamboat Mountain, and the Oregon Trail.
“My time horsepacking in the Red Desert helped me realize what a magical place a high desert can be,” said Kary Sommers, a NOLS horsepacking instructor. “We see elk, antelope, deer, and wild horses consistently, against the backdrop of an endless sky.”
Numerous organizations protested the leases, including sportsmen, outdoor businesses, and conservation groups. On Monday the BLM dismissed those protests, issued a Finding of No Significant Impact, and initiated the sale. Outfitters are concerned that the decision did not account for the value of the area to our businesses and that the finding of no impact was therefore misguided.
“NOLS has been returning economic value to Wyoming for more than 50 years and that means something to people in Wyoming,” said Aaron Bannon, NOLS Stewardship and Sustainability Director. “Hasty decisions like these impair our ability to attract students and contribute to the economy, and we believe this decision needs further review.”
About NOLS: NOLS is the world’s most comprehensive wilderness school. Students learn communication, good judgment, and grit through developing outdoor skills, risk management, and wilderness medicine expertise in a hands-on environment. Students of all ages graduate from their courses prepared to step forward and lead their communities in a changing world. To learn more about the NOLS experience or to bring a course to your business or organization, call (800) 710-NOLS (6657) or visit www.nols.edu.
CONTACT: Aaron Bannon, Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Director, (307) 349-7593, firstname.lastname@example.org