CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The Bureau of Land Management may allow oil and gas development in Wyoming's Jack Morrow Hills, although the agency would try to monitor and control the work so it doesn't badly hurt important natural habitat, according to a draft plan released Tuesday.
"We're going to have oil and gas development out there -- at a controlled pace," said Andy Tenney, a program coordinator for the bureau's Cheyenne office.
The bureau's report outlined a proposed management plan for the 622,000-acre hills, which are part of southwestern Wyoming's Red Desert.
The area includes towering buttes, the largest active sand-dune fields in North America, volcanic formations and prehistoric rock art. It also is home to pronghorn antelope, the endangered mountain plover and a rare herd of desert elk.
Under the proposed management plan, lease offerings and drilling approvals would be timed to make sure sensitive environmental areas are protected.
About 50% of the hills is leased, although those 157 permits are suspended while the study is underway, Tenney said.
"Unfortunately, BLM's preferred alternative calls for the slow death of this national treasure," said Dan Heilig, director of the Wyoming Outdoor Council.