Story by John Emeigh
BUTTE – The Bureau of Land Management is considering opening thousands of acres of land for potential leasing for gas and oil drilling and hydraulic fracking along the Big Hole and Beaverhead watersheds.
The BLM has opened up more than 12,000 acres of property along the Big Hole River and Beaverhead River. Some of it in Madison County and much of it in Beaverhead County. It’s an issue of much concern since the Big Hole River is considered a blue ribbon trout river.
One owner of a flyshop along the Big Hole River said this is a complicated issue that runs a delicate balance between jobs and protecting the environment.
“Everybody’s trying to live here together and there’s a lot of different industries competing for the same natural resources and I think the only thing we can do is study it and have some regulations and be careful,” said Craig Jones, owner of Great Divide Outfitters.
Some of the land being considered for leasing is an area south of Glen along the Big Hole River.
“Obviously I’d been concerned if it affects the quality of the river and my livelihood, of course just looking at it from my viewpoint. But I can also understand the other side of the argument which is more energy for the country and potential revenues for the community,” said Great Waters Inn owner Mark Lane.
However, if anyone seriously considers oil and gas exploration along this river, some people say they hope they make the environmental impact a priority.
“That the checks and balances are in place and that the environment obviously comes first, remediation plan should be in effect,” Jones said.
The BLM is giving the public until Friday to comment on this proposal.