Pronghorn antelope in the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Wyoming, one of the areas that would be covered by new protections. Credit: Tom Koerner / USFWS / Mountain-Prairie

Of all of the efforts by the Biden administration to protect environmentally fragile lands, few have generated as much vitriol as a proposal that would block oil and gas drilling on 1.6 million acres of high desert sagebrush steppe in Wyoming.

One lawmaker in the Republican-led Wyoming Legislature called President Biden’s plan an attempt at “total government control.” Another declared it the worst disaster in American history, affecting “more people than the Civil War, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 combined.” Some spread fears that China would influence the government’s decision-making. A federal lands manager said she had received violent threats, prompting an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The 1,350-page proposal for managing 3.6 million of acres of federal land in Southwest Wyoming was years in the making but still took many Wyoming residents by surprise when the Bureau of Land Management made it public […]

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