Saving Wyoming’s Hoback


The Grassroots Movement that Stopped Natural Gas Development

In late 2012, more than one hundred people gathered to hear a long-awaited announcement: the Trust for Public Land had succeeded in preventing natural gas development in the remote Hoback Basin of Wyoming. This landmark agreement—purchasing leases from Plains Exploration Company—would not have come to pass without the extraordinary will and expertise of local citizens. Unchallenged, the proposed natural gas development in the national forest near the hamlet of Bondurant, Wyoming, would have brought roads, pipelines, water and air pollution, and a complete change in the character of the landscape and its communities.
     Too Special to Drill tells the story of the Hoback and Noble Basins in northwestern Wyoming and of the citizens who worked together to protect the land that they loved. Retired schoolteachers, mine workers, big game hunting outfitters, and other stakeholders brought together their knowledge of the area to achieve a single goal: to prevent the industrialization of the wild country that was their home. While some disagreed about specifics, their work as individuals and as coalitions is an inspiring example of how determined citizens can make a difference. 

In late 2012, more than one hundred people gathered to hear a long-awaited announcement: the Trust for Public Land had succeeded in preventing natural gas development in the remote Hoback Basin of Wyoming. This landmark agreement—purchasing leases from Plains Exploration Company—would not have come to pass without the extraordinary will and expertise of local citizens. Unchallenged, the proposed natural gas development in the national forest near the hamlet of Bondurant, Wyoming, would have brought roads, pipelines, water and air pollution, and a complete change in the character of the landscape and its communities.
     Too Special to Drill tells the story of the Hoback and Noble Basins in northwestern Wyoming and of the citizens who worked together to protect the land that they loved. Retired schoolteachers, mine workers, big game hunting outfitters, and other stakeholders brought together their knowledge of the area to achieve a single goal: to prevent the industrialization of the wild country that was their home. While some disagreed about specifics, their work as individuals and as coalitions is an inspiring example of how determined citizens can make a difference. 


Florence Rose Shepard is professor emerita in the department of Educational Studies at the University of Utah.

Susan Marsh is an award-winning writer living in Jackson, Wyoming. 


Praise and Reviews:

"A fine, personal story of how people who don't always agree with each other found common cause in opposing the industrial development of a magnificent mountain backcountry. Success stories are rare in the environmental field, and this ‘win’ in the Wyoming Range was a big one.”
—Fred Swanson, author of Where Roads Will Never Reach (University of Utah Press 2015) 


“A good news story for the environment and an important message for students in the environmental field: hard work and work with diverse groups can lead to successful environmental outcomes.”
—Joan Degiorgio, Northern Mountains Regional Director for The Nature Conservancy in Utah


“Person by person, detail by detail, in a decade of stories both earthbound and homegrown, Florence Shepard and Susan Marsh take us to the wildlife crossroads of the Wyoming Range. As Shepard and Marsh follow these people bound by their love of Hoback Basin, they lay out a bipartisan path toward environmental redemption and justice.”
—Stephen Trimble, photographer and author of Bargaining for Eden: The Fight for the Last Open Spaces in America