Wyoming: Some of the Last of the Best
The Tetons, Absarokas, Wind Rivers, Big Horns, Snowies, and Sierra Madres—these are world-class mountain ranges, the headwaters of seven streams that feed three of the largest river systems in the country. Between Wyoming’s mountains are vast basins, some of the last intact high-desert and grassland ecosystems in the world. All told, about half of the land in Wyoming is managed by the federal government.
We the People
Wyoming has only about 500,000 residents. Close to one-third of Wyoming citizens do not have family incomes high enough to cover basic needs, according to the Wyoming Equality State Policy Center. Among all states, Wyoming has the highest percentage of people working two or more jobs. In this atmosphere, all jobs are precious. Ten percent of the state’s general fund revenues come from oil and gas severance taxes, according to the Wyoming Department of Employment; in the public mind, oil and gas are inextricably linked to jobs. Conservation of wildlands and environmental protection can be a tough sell.
Threats to the Wild West
Roughly 26 of the 30 million acres of Wyoming public lands are open to oil and gas leasing. In recent years, the BLM has allowed industry to drill in places that are important habitat for mule deer, elk, pronghorn, ferruginous hawks, sage-grouse, and other species. Meanwhile threats to human health are increasing, with ozone alerts in the small town of Pinedale, water contaminated by benzene in Clark, and groundwater contamination east of Pavillion that is likely linked to gas drilling. In the face of this boom, the Wyoming Outdoor Council is working to support Wyoming communities, protect wildlife, safeguard our water and air, and save some of the vast, undeveloped public lands that remain for the benefit of all people.