Hoback River among America’s Most Endangered Rivers

Natural gas drilling threatens clean water

May 15th, 2012

Scott Bosse, American Rivers, (406) 570-0455
Dan Smitherman , Citizens for the Wyoming Range,
(307) 734-7500
Aaron Pruzan, Rendezvous River Sports, (307) 413-3574
Rhett Bain, Reel Deal Anglers, (307) 739-7020
Dan Bailey, local property owner, (562) 754-5005

Washington, D.C. – American Rivers has named the Hoback River among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® for the second year in a row, shining a national spotlight on the threat natural gas drilling poses to clean water, recreation, and world-class fish and wildlife. 

“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are facing a critical tipping point,” said Scott Bosse of American Rivers. “We all need healthy rivers for our drinking water, health, economy, and quality of life. We hope citizens will join us to ensure a clean, healthy Hoback River for generations to come.”

Plains Exploration and Production (PXP), a Houston-based energy company, is seeking permission from the U.S. Forest Service to drill for natural gas near the headwaters of the Hoback River using the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking.” The likely impacts of drilling include pollution of surface and groundwater with toxic fracking fluids, sedimentation of streams from construction of roads and well pads, and dewatering of streams. Many water wells across the Rocky Mountain West, including in Pavillion, Wyoming, are suspected to have been contaminated by natural gas drilling. Similar water pollution could occur near the Hoback headwaters.

American Rivers and its partners are urging PXP to agree to sell its oil and gas leases to a conservation buyer.  This action would honor PXP’s financial investment while simultaneously safeguarding this part of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, its waters, and the sustainable, recreation-based economy it supports.

“The Hoback River is the centerpiece of this unique area called the Upper Hoback.  It is part of Wyoming’s namesake Wyoming Range and offers world-class fishing and multiple recreational opportunities. It supports many species of wildlife, is the headwaters of a Wild and Scenic River, and is used and treasured by both residents and non-residents.  I am extraordinarily pleased that American Rivers has recognized the incompatibility of natural gas exploration and production with this spectacular and special river,” said Dan Smitherman, a former local outfitter with Citizens for the Wyoming Range.

“The Hoback River offers clean water and incredible recreation close to town and is enjoyed by paddlers, rafters, and fishers from early spring to late fall. Given this huge asset to our community and visitors, oil and gas drilling are not an option for the future of this amazing resource,” said Aaron Pruzan with Rendezvous River Sports and Jackson Hole Kayak School.

“Drilling and fracking pose far too many risks to the Upper Hoback and its downstream waters. One mistake– a well blowout or spill– and the clean water and healthy native trout fisheries I rely on for my livelihood would be impacted for years to come,” said Rhett Bain with Reel Deal Anglers.

“The Hoback River is a true treasure. The river, in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, flanks the entrance trek to both Teton and Yellowstone National Parks in a spectacular red rock and conifer-lined Hoback Canyon. To tamper with such a treasure at the gateway to one of America’s most valued National Parks by fracking for natural gas is lunacy,” said Dan Bailey, a local property owner. “If this full-scale industrial development proceeds, given the ruggedness of the area and severity of the winter weather, it is only a matter of time before an accident occurs with catastrophic consequences. The Hoback River as we know it today will be lost forever, along with a great native cutthroat trout fishery.”

The Hoback River is treasured for its sparkling clear water, thriving fishery, and excellent paddling opportunities. In 2009, Congress granted Wild and Scenic River status to the Hoback downstream of the proposed drilling site, legally prohibiting any activities that would degrade its special values. This is the only case where industrial-scale gas drilling has been proposed at the headwaters of a federally-protected Wild and Scenic River. American Rivers named the Hoback as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® in 2011 because of the threat posed by natural gas drilling.

Now in its 27th year, the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.

America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2012:
#1: Potomac River (MD, VA, PA, WV, DC)
Threat: Pollution
At risk: Clean water and public health

#2: Green River (WY, UT, CO)
Threat: Water withdrawals
At risk: Recreation opportunities and fish and wildlife habitat

#3: Chattahoochee River (GA)
Threat: New dams and reservoirs
At risk: Clean water and healthy fisheries

#4: Missouri River (IA, KS, MN, MO, MT, NE, ND, SD, WY)
Threat: Outdated flood management
At risk: Public safety

#5: Hoback River (WY)
Threat: Natural gas development
At stake: Clean water and world-class fish and wildlife

#6: Grand River (OH)
Threat: Natural gas development
At risk: Clean water and public health

#7: South Fork Skykomish River (WA)
Threat: New dam
At risk: Habitat and recreation

#8: Crystal River (CO)
Threat: Dams and water diversions
At risk: Fish, wildlife, and recreation

#9: Coal River (WV)
Threat: Mountaintop removal coal mining
At risk: Clean water and public health

#10: Kansas River (KS)
Threat: Sand and gravel dredging
At risk: Public health and wildlife habitat


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About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.