Hoback Basin

Lookout Mountain sunset, Hoback Basin, Wyoming
Photo credit: 
Dave Showalter

The southern anchor of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem—the largest intact temperate ecosystem in the northern hemisphere—the Hoback Basin is home to magnificent mountains, vibrant forests, and the headwaters of the Wild and Scenic Hoback River.

Generations of Americans have come here to fish, hunt, paddle, hike, or to simply enjoy Wyoming's backcountry. But the future of this unspoiled landscape was at risk, for beneath the Hoback lies a highly valued resource—natural gas. Specifically, Houston-based Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP) had plans to drill 136 gas wells and construct 30 miles of new roads at the headwaters of the Hoback River. If approved, it would have been the only instance in the United States of a major gas field at the headwaters of a Congressionally-designated Wild and Scenic river.

Oil and natural gas are important businesses in Wyoming, but local communities galvanized around a common belief that the Hoback is “too precious to drill.” In July 2012, The Trust for Public Land reached an agreement to purchase PXP’s 58,000 acres of oil and gas leases in the Hoback—with just 5 months to raise $8.75 million in philanthropic support to complete the deal. Ultimately, the can-do attitude and unanimous support of our partners and Wyoming communities of Rock Springs, Pinedale, Bondurant, Jackson, and Wilson—in addition to global generosity—led to success.

In December 2012, The Trust for Public Land purchased 58,000 acres of oil and gas leases from PXP and retired them per the provisions of the 2009 Wyoming Range Legacy Act, permanently protecting the Hoback from future drilling. One of the most important wildlife habitats in the lower 48 states—for elk, moose, mule deer, antelope and dozens of other species—will now remain intact for future generations to enjoy.

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Since 1972, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than 3 million acres and completed more than 5,200 park and conservation projects.