SWEETWATER COUNTY — The following is a press release from the Wyoming Outdoor Council:
Green River resident and trona miner, Mike Burd, has been honored by the Wyoming Outdoor Council for his extensive efforts to protect important hunting and outdoor recreation areas in the Wyoming Range.
Burd — who is chairman of Area 5 Wyoming Federation of Union Sportsmen, an avid hunter, and spokesman for Citizens for the Wyoming Range — received the Civic Action Award at the Wyoming Outdoor Council’s 50th-anniversary celebration, on September 23, in Lander, “in recognition of outstanding conservation leadership in Wyoming.”
“Mike is a lifelong sportsman, and he’s been showing up for more than 20 years in Cheyenne and Washington to advocate workers’ and sportsmen’s issues,” said RJ Pieper, Rock Springs resident and the Wyoming Outdoor Council’s public lands organizer. “He’s a trona miner, a member of the United Steelworkers Local 13214, and he’s been one of the leaders of the 13-year effort to protect the Wyoming Range.”
Lisa McGee, interim director of the Wyoming Outdoor Council, presented the award.
“At each step in this long effort to protect the Wyoming Range, Mike has been there,” McGee said.
“He’s traveled to Jackson to meet with forest supervisors, to Ogden to meet with the regional foresters, to Cheyenne to meet with the Governor and his staff, and to D.C. to meet with our congressional delegation. Mike has been the official spokesperson of Citizens for the Wyoming Range for just the last few years, but I’d argue he’s been the heart and soul of the group from the beginning — and he remains its heart and soul today.”
In his acceptance speech, Burd emphasized the need for conservation efforts not only in Wyoming, but worldwide, comparing his own efforts in Wyoming to protecting elephants in Africa. He noted that while he may never see an elephant, he’s happier knowing they exist and that, similarly, many U.S. citizens benefit from keeping the Wyoming Range as it is today, even if they never visit.
“I want my kids and grandkids to experience a Wyoming as good, if not better, than the one I grew up in,” Burd said. “And that means leaving some places the way they are. The most valuable inheritance we can leave our children are the outdoor opportunities we took for granted as kids.”
Burd’s efforts to protect the Wyoming Range helped bring about bipartisan federal legislation in 2009 — called the Wyoming Range Legacy Act — that protected 1.2 million acres of the Bridger-Teton National Forest from future oil and gas leasing. He helped halt development of 136 natural gas wells in the headwaters of the wild and scenic Hoback River, and played a key role in the subsequent $8.75 million buyout and retirement of those leases in 2012, among other things.
Roughly a third of public lands in Wyoming are currently leased for oil and gas development.
The Wyoming Outdoor Council works to ensure that Wyoming’s oil and gas resources are developed responsibly and in landscapes where the harm to wildlife, sportsmen access, scenery, and open spaces will be minimal. Together with thousands of Wyoming residents, including Burd and many others in Sweetwater County, the Council has long argued that the Wyoming Range is “too special to drill” because fossil fuel development is incompatible with the important wildlife habitat and the enormous benefits to the region’s quality of life.
Also honored at the celebration were Brian Rutledge of Audubon Rockies, who was awarded the Conservation Leadership Award, and Yvon Chouinard, mountaineer, and founder of Patagonia clothing company, who was awarded the Tom Bell Legacy Award. The event also hosted a Citizen Advocacy
Summit with workshops for interested citizens to learn how to be a part of conservation efforts to help protect the places they love. The entire weekend was kicked off by the final concert of The Jalan Crossland Band.