Victory on the Hoback!

Hoback River, WY

Hoback River, WY | Scott Bosse

Over the last two years, the Hoback River in western Wyoming has climbed from #7 to #5 in our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report due to the threat of industrial-scale gas drilling in its headwaters.

Today, the Hoback exited the list the right way – by being saved.

At an October 5 news conference in Jackson, the Trust for Public Land announced that it has entered into an agreement with Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP) to purchase oil and gas leases on 58,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land located at the headwaters of the Hoback River. Once the transaction is completed, the leases will be retired, protecting the land from fracking and other forms of oil and gas drilling.

This marks the second major oil and gas lease buyout on a Wild and Scenic river in the Northern Rockies this fall. In September, The Nature Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy of Canada announced they had raised $10 million to buy out mining and energy leases at the headwaters of the North Fork of the Flathead River near Glacier National Park in northwest Montana. The North Fork appeared in our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report in 2009.

“This is an outstanding outcome for the people of Wyoming—a true ‘win-win’ resolution. It respects both the wishes of local residents and the legal rights of leaseholders,” said Wyoming Governor Matt Mead.

The Trust for Public Land is currently working to raise the $8.75 million needed to complete the transaction by December 31. To date, the organization has received donations and pledges of $4.5 million from a combination of individuals and foundations. Under a law passed by Congress in 2009, no federal funds can be used to purchase oil and gas leases in the Wyoming Range, where the Hoback headwaters are located.

The Hoback is beloved by local residents for its rich hunting and fishing grounds and astounding natural beauty. Part of the Greater Yellowstone area, the lands and waters affected by the oil and gas leases are home to thriving populations of native cutthroat trout, elk, mule deer, antelope, and scores of other species. In recognition of its pristine water quality and stunning array of wildlife, Congress designated the Hoback as a Wild and Scenic river in 2009. American Rivers played an instrumental role in that campaign, which protected a total of 13 rivers and 400 river miles surrounding Jackson Hole.

We will continue to fight to protect our last pristine rivers for people today and future generations.