Our View: Where does development end?

 


At what point have we gone too far?

Is it when the State Lands and Investments Board lists lands surrounding an iconic Sweetwater County landmark in an oil and gas lease sale? Is it when large portions of lands known as Sweetwater County’s crown jewel are planned to be leased for similar development by the Bureau of Land Management? At what point can we collectively say “it’s too much?”

We’re not against the development of our county’s vast mineral wealth. Minerals are by far the largest employer in the county and according to data from Sweetwater County, account for nearly 80 percent of the county’s economy. Without the minerals industry, Sweetwater County would be much different and much less affluent than it is. The mineral industries are the primary reason why many of the county’s residents are here in the first place.

However, just because the minerals are important to the county, doesn’t mean we should explore every square foot of land for oil, natural gas, trona or uranium.

The most recent example of this issue involved Boar’s Tusk. The landmark was included in a parcel set to be leased by the State Lands and Investments Board earlier this month.

As much of the land in the parcel is within a BLM-designated Wilderness Study Area, the only portion of the parcel available to develop is near Boar’s Tusk. This is a portion of Sweetwater County that should not be touched by industrial development.


We also believe the Greater Little Mountain Area should be exempt from leasing. A large portion of the area is planned to be leased during the BLM’s fourth quarter oil and gas lease sale. The area is one of the few forested areas in Sweetwater County and is home to a diverse collection of wildlife.

According to researchers from the University of Wyoming, the mule deer population in the area are already struggling.

Additional pressures from development could impact the population further while limiting use of the area to residents, some of whom have recreated in the area for generations.

Some areas are worth protecting. In Sweetwater County, two of those places are Boar’s Tusk and the Greater Little Mountain Area.

Sure, jobs are important to the residents of Sweetwater County, but without places to step away from modern life and enjoy the natural splendor found within the county, what’s the point of living here?

 

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