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I drive clear across Wyoming at least four times a year, and except for the obvious growth of some of the towns, the countryside looks the same as it did 34 years ago when I moved here from New York. There certainly are impacted areas where oil drilling or mining is going on, but our natural resources have to be developed. What people from heavily populated areas don't realize is that this part of the U.S. is enormous, and the areas being developed are just tiny spots on the map.
Some of my property adjoins three huge coal strip mines, so I know about environmental impact. The game is only temporarily disturbed, and there is lots more country to move to if necessary. I see more deer around the mines than anywhere else. The energy companies are doing a great job of reclamation, and in general they make excellent neighbors—very cooperative and helpful.
Your stories often seem to imply that sensible Westerners, like Secretary Watt, and many ranchers, like myself, aren't environmentalists. On the contrary, we have to take care of the environment to survive, and we love the game we support on our land. Basically, we hate the energy development and wish it would go away. But the ranching business stinks, and the days are over when sheep or cows can make ranching pay. One has to lease land for mineral exploration or in some other way cash in on the energy boom. It's a matter of simple economics.
The biggest threat to our environment is the great American public. Many people have respect for the land, but there are just enough slobs around to mess up the landscape. I have a nice pond on my ranch that is used almost daily by trespassers. They would be welcome if they didn't leave beer cans and other debris around. And, of course, with the development of our energy resources, more and more people like this show up around here. We Westerners and the game will survive, just as Alaska survived the pipeline, but I wish that someone would devote a little more effort to educating the public to respect private property and the public domain.
?Just as Wyoming's population has almost doubled in recent years, the number of its big game animals—elk, deer and antelope—has also almost doubled in the last 25 years, according to state game and fish figures.
?Mining, plus oil and gas development, only disturbs 1% of Wyoming's surface. Yet, that small acreage provides 60% of the state's tax revenue—a pretty fair trade-off for the temporary use of a small amount of our land.
?The people who live in and love Wyoming are here because they want to work here and also enjoy the recreational opportunities that this wonderful state provides. No one favors the destruction of animals, and, in my opinion, it isn't happening. The statement that 5,000 acres of habitat were lost in one year from seismic detonations is pure rot.