JACKSON, Wyo. - Conservationists and an oil company have come to a big agreement in Wyoming.
Deborah Love, the Northern Rockies director for the Trust for Public Land announced that after six months of negotiations with the Plains Exploration and Production Company, or PXP, the Trust for Public Land has reached an agreement for the purchase of over 58,000 acres of federal oil and gas leases in the Upper Hoback Basin.
There was no shortage of applause as people of Wyoming learned that they'd be keeping their land, which is rich in a resource that many consider to be much more valuable than natural gas.
"One of the special reasons why we love Wyoming is the beauty that we enjoy," said Republican Gov. Matt Mead.
The deal is being lauded as an historic one.
The Upper Hoback area is designated as a Crucial Habitat Priority Area and a Species of Greatest Conservation Need Priority Area by the Game and Fish Department. Of the 1.2 million acres of that land leased to energy exploration companies, PXP is the largest leaseholder.
Thanks to the Wyoming Range Legacy Act, any leaseholder can sell or donate their land back to the federal government for permanent retirement.
PXP was glad to do that.
Representatives from PXP were not at Friday's press conference, but the company did release a statement reading, in part: "PXP is pleased to have worked with the Trust for Public Land on this agreement ... This agreement represents a win-win for all parties."
It is certainly a victory for the hundreds of people in Wyoming who participated in the negotiation.
"Now I can hand these mountains down to my children," said Carl Bennett, a miner from Rock Springs.
"It means more to me than just about anything," said Jace Jackman, a hunter who, at 19 years old, was the youngest negotiator on behalf of the Trust. "If you don't have a place to recreate, then you don't have anything."
Even the governor is glad his state's pristine wilderness will be kept for generations to enjoy.
"It is truly is a special day to be able to have this special place, knowing that it's going to be special for all the years to come," Mead said.
The Trust for Public Land will pay $8.75 million for the lease. It will not use any taxpayer money, but it is still $4.25 million short of that price.
In order to buy the land, they'll need to raise the full amount of funds by the end of this year.
For more information on the Trust for Public Land and how to donate to its cause, visit tpl.org.