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Gazette Premium Content Wyoming-based environmental group disbands

Associated Press Updated: March 3, 2014 at 5:46 pm

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — One of Wyoming's oldest and most outspoken environmental groups, the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, is disbanding amid financial difficulties.

The board of the Laramie-based alliance voted Thursday to call it quits after more than 25 years. An office manager will stay on to help wrap up business but the group's other three staff members lost their jobs Friday, board President Ken Driese said.

"The basic situation is we've been struggling with funding issues and just reached a point where we needed to close the office in Laramie," Driese said Monday. "BCA has always been a thinly funded organization, but it's been a little more difficult over the last three months."

In recent years, the alliance has spoken out against gas drilling in the Red Desert and unsuccessfully opposed an in-situ uranium mine in northeastern Sweetwater County.

The group was a frequent objector to federal oil and gas leasing in Wyoming, sometimes opposing dozens of planned leases at a time before the U.S. Bureau of Land Management would offer them for auction.

The alliance will see through three pending legal cases, including federal litigation contesting U.S. Forest Service management of bighorn and domestic sheep herds in Medicine Bow National Forest, said an attorney for the alliance, John Pursell, of Portland, Ore.

The group's demise leaves the Lander-based Wyoming Outdoor Council as the only statewide environmental group based in Wyoming.

"Biodiversity Conservation Alliance played a key role in really speaking the truth about what was needed in Wyoming — regardless of whether it was popular — in conservation," said Erik Molvar, executive director of the alliance for 13 years.

Molvar left the alliance last year to help the Santa Fe, N.M.-based group WildEarth Guardians advocate for sagebrush habitat conservation. He declined to say why he departed.

Biodiversity Conservation Alliance got its start in 1988 as a group called Friends of the Bow and advocated for conservation issues in southeast Wyoming's Medicine Bow National Forest. The alliance successfully fought logging in the forest, including logging in the Rock Creek roadless area, Pursell said.

The group took on more of a statewide focus and became Biodiversity Associates in 1994 and the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance in 2002.

The end of Biodiversity Conservation Alliance is unlikely to slow environmentalists' opposition to oil and gas development in Wyoming, Petroleum Association of Wyoming President Bruce Hinchey said.

"There are plenty of other outspoken groups to take their place," he said.

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Follow Mead Gruver on Twitter at https://twitter.com/meadgruver

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