Wyoming: Sand Creek petition rejected
November 12, 2010
The value of multiple-use in the Sand Creek area was retained Oct. 28, 2010 when the Environmental Quality Council (EQC) voted 5-to-1 to not designate the Sand Creek area as “Very Rare or Uncommon.” This vote was the culmination of a three-year process in which the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance petitioned the EQC to designate the Sand Creek area “Very Rare or Uncommon.” The Sand Creek area is located in Northeastern Wyoming, just south of Beulah, WY, and near the South Dakota border.
This latest hearing was the fifth time the petition was heard before the EQC. However, this was the first time the EQC voted on the designation. Prior hearings were based on whether or not the petition was complete.
“The EQC decision shows the value of collaboration amongst the many users of the Sand Creek area,” Brett Moline, Wyoming Farm Bureau Director of Public and Government Affairs, said. “A diverse group of community members, mineral industry, timber industry, county officials, sportsmen; multiple-use advocates and agriculture producers worked together throughout the years to defeat the land grab.”
Crook County resident Hugh Thompson stated the decision was a sound defeat for the environmental community. “This petition was driven by outside interests coming into our community,” Thompson said.
“However, we really didn’t win anything,” he continued. “We just get to keep what we already have here in Crook County.”
Very Rare and Uncommon status should only affect non-coal surface mining. Production agriculture, oil and gas leasing, and logging should continue as normal.
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“However, federal agencies have elevated the effect of Very Rare or Uncommon status,” Moline explained. “For example, the BLM has used the Very Rare or Uncommon status of Adobe Town, in Sweetwater County, as a reason to not lease oil and gas drilling. Losing one use tends to work towards reducing or eliminating other uses.”
The EQC’s vote was a victory for multiple-use. However, there is nothing in state law that stops an organization them from modifying the petition and bringing it forward again.
According to Moline, former State Representative Nels Smith, who was in the legislature when this law was written, pointed out that these types of large acre designations would go beyond what the legislature intended with the very rare or uncommon designation.
“There are seldom any real winners in environmental battles and the land is often the loser,” Thompson concluded. “Biodiversity Conservation Alliance and the other backers of this blatant land grab, prostituted valid science by using half-truths and the Wyoming Environmental Quality Council wisely rejected this tactic.”