Land exchange: Proposed land swap provides more access to public lands
The Southeast Wyoming Land Exchange was proposed in 2016 by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Rawlins Field Office. Within the land exchange, the BLM would acquire the Mule Creek Ranch in northern Albany County in exchange for isolated parcels scattered throughout Albany County, as well as one small parcel bordering the southern Carbon County line.
According to BLM Rawlins Office Field Manager Dennis Carpenter, most parcels under consideration for exchange don’t have public access and are identified for disposal under the BLM’s resource management plan.
In a virtual public meeting held Oct. 13, representatives from BLM, RMEF and the Conservation Fund shared basic information on the exchange. During the meeting, Carpenter noted land exchanges are very complex and take many years to complete. The land exchange is also made on a value-for-value basis rather than an acre-by-acre basis.
In February, the BLM headquarters approved the proposal.
“This past summer, we began some of the field work necessary to complete the exchange and we are going to continue field work in the next field season,” Carpenter explained.
According to the BLM, 35,231 acres of land-locked and scattered parcels have been identified which could be used in various configurations to achieve equal value in exchange for the Mule Creek Ranch, which includes just under 7,000 acres.
Increased public access
Senior Conservation Program Manager for RMEF Leah Burgess shared this project is a win-win for the public and for wildlife habitat.
“RMEF has been working with the Mule Creek Ranch for many years, and some may be familiar with the ranch because current landowners participate in the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s AccessYes Program,” she said. “Mule Creek Ranch is an outstanding property we are so excited to hopefully be able to acquire through this land exchange process.”
Southeast Wyoming Land Exchange Project Manager Annette Treat shared, “When the Mule Creek Ranch becomes public land, we are looking with adjoining public lands for access, ideally opening a large portion of access for public use.”
The land the BLM is considering in exchange for the Mule Creek Ranch has been identified through a process, and has been flagged as land that doesn’t hold much public benefit because they are hard to manage, land-locked parcels.
“The key facts are as this land goes through the appraisal process to figure out dollar amounts, the whole purpose of this is to assemble land for public access and public use. The plan is consistent with the resource management plan and the majority of parcels on the BLM side are listed with very limited use outside of the ranchers who surround the properties as grazing allotment use,” Treat said.
While there are concerns regarding grazing impacts, Treat said, “I want to assure everyone when we did the screening for potential buyers for BLM parcels, we are not looking at creating any larger headaches than the mixed ownership already has given everybody involved in the parcels.”
In addition, Treat shared the management of the Mule Creek Ranch falls within a resource management plan aimed at maintaining the existing character of the landscape, so land users can expect very little change.
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.