Report says Grand Teton one of most threatened parks

JACKSON — A new report from an environmental advocacy group lists Grand Teton National Park as among the dozen parks most threatened by the hurried pace of energy leasing and drilling taking place under the Trump administration.

The 44-page National Parks Conservation Association’s “Spoiled Parks” includes Grand Teton not because of the threat of drilling within or immediately adjacent to the park, but because of the threat gas pads and drilling rigs pose to migration routes pronghorn and mule deer follow to summer range there.

“The future of wildlife migration into Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks is dependent on the preservation of their historic travel corridors,” Steve Iobst, a former deputy superintendent of Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, said in a statement.

Iobst, who’s a member of the group’s Northern Rockies Regional Council, remarked that “massive levels of oil and gas leasing” in the Green River basin “need to be stopped” to protect routes.

At least two well-known migration paths link southwestern Wyoming’s oil and gas country to Teton park.

The Red Desert-to-Hoback Mule Deer Migration — the first route ever designated by Wyoming — leads deer from as far south as Interstate 80 along the southwest slope of the Wind River Range into Bridger-Teton National Forest land southeast of Teton Park. While most of these deer stop short of the park itself, a subset that migrates farther than any other mammal in the Lower 48 pushes through Grand Teton on its way to summer range near Island Park, Idaho.

A second well-known migration route that ties Jackson Hole to Sublette County’s gas fields is known as the “Path of the Pronghorn.” Via the Gros Ventre and Upper Green river drainages, it’s used by about 400 pronghorn that summer in the park. It’s the first federally protected migration corridor where it cuts through the Bridger-Teton National Forest, but its southern reaches in the Anticline, Jonah and Normally Pressured Lance gas fields have so far escaped recognition by the Bureau of Land Management and Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The other 11 “spoiled” parks listed are: Sequoia National Park (California), Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado), Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado), Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (Colorado), Dinosaur National Monument (Colorado/Utah), Big Cypress National Preserve (Florida), Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico), Chaco Culture National Historical Park (New Mexico), Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota), Hovenweep National Monument (Utah) and Canyonlands National Park (Utah).

Sharon Mader, who manages the association’s Grand Teton program, said she is heading to Washington, D.C., with colleagues this week to propagate the report and to lobby lawmakers on the pitfalls of the Trump administration’s push for “energy dominance.” That agenda, and policies meant to streamline and encourage leasing, have caused a spike in Wyoming acreage being bought up by industry and in applications to drill.

“We have waded into territory far beyond park boundaries in order to protect the assets of the park,” Mader said.

When reached Monday, Petroleum Association of Wyoming President Pete Obermueller said he thought the report was sensational and too simplistic.

“The [association] has taken leave of their senses,” Obermueller said. “NPCA’s charge that GTNP is ‘spoiled’ is the kind of sensationalism that has no place in reasoned discourse. Instead, NPCA should come to the table, just like oil and gas has, to figure out a reasonable approach to protect migration corridor functionality and allow for the economic activity that keeps Wyoming afloat.”