RMP draft released for southwest Wyoming
On Aug. 17, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a draft resource management plan (RMP) and draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Rock Springs Field Office (RSFO) planning area, including nearly 3.6 million acres of public lands and 3.7 million acres of federal mineral estate in southwest Wyoming.
According to the document, this area spans Lincoln, Sweetwater, Uinta, Sublette and Fremont counties and includes prized hunting ground in the Greater Little Mountain Area as well as several big game migration corridors.
BLM’s draft plan
According to a BLM press release, dated Aug. 17, the purpose of the plan is to establish guidance, objectives, policies and management actions for public lands under the RSFO.
“The plan is comprehensive and will resolve and address issues within the RSFO’s jurisdictional boundaries, which are identified through agency, interagency and public scoping efforts,” reads the release. “BLM strives for a balance of opportunities to use and develop BLM-administered resources within the planning area, while promoting environmental conservation.”
The document consists of more than 1,000 pages split into two volumes, presenting four alternatives for managing RSFO’s resources and addressing everything from mineral development, renewable energy, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, historic trails and wild horses.
The first of these four alternatives is Alternative A, the no action alternative.
Under this plan, resources on lands administered by the RSFO would continue to be managed under the 1997 Green River Resource Management Plan and 2004 Jack Morrow Hills Coordinated Activity Plan, and the goal of this plan would be to “balance the protection of resource values with the use and development of resources.”
Alternative B, also referred to as the agency preferred alternative, “emphasizes conservation of resource values with constraints on resource uses as well as the improvement and protection of wildlife habitat and sensitive plant and animal species, improvement of riparian areas and implementation of management actions to improve water quality and enhance protection of cultural resources.”
According to the document, Alternative C proposes the least restrictive management actions for energy and commodity development as well as the least protective actions for physical, biological and cultural resources.
“Under this alternative, development and use of resources within the planning area would occur with intensive management of surface disturbing and disruptive activities,” reads the RMP.
Alternative D is a combination of B and C.
“Alternative D explores a less-restrictive management approach for resource uses than Alternative B, while also having a greater conservation focus than Alternative C,” explains the RMP. “This approach allows for opportunities to use and develop resources within the planning area, while promoting environmental conservation.”
The release of the draft plan has stirred up opposition among residents across the state of Wyoming.
In an Aug. 17 press release, Gov. Mark Gordon expressed his frustration with the plan, specifically in regards to the proposed designation of more than 1.5 million acres as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).
“Upon first glance, I am extremely disappointed, yet not surprised, by the redirection this administration is taking with this draft,” Gordon states. “Over a decade’s worth of work from Wyoming’s cooperating agencies, local stakeholders and impacted industries seems to have fallen on the deaf ears of the federal BLM and its imperious agenda.”
“I know I am not alone in my desire to review this draft with a fine-tooth comb,” he adds. “I will protect the interests of the state of Wyoming and make sure they pay attention to the good work being done at the state and local level as we move ahead.”
Conversely, representatives of the Greater Little Mountain Coalition are happy to hear of the plan’s release.
“We are excited for the RSFO to release this draft plan, and we look forward to making sure the Greater Little Mountain Coalition’s vision for balanced multiple use management is carried forward into the final plan,” says Corey Fisher, Trout Unlimited’s public lands policy director in an Aug. 17 press release published by Trout Unlimited.
“This region is unique and home to many species, including one of the purest forms of native Colorado River cutthroat trout,” he continues. “Since 1990, conservation groups and agencies have invested more than $6 million to enhance and maintain these resources. A plan to conserve this area is essential to not only protect these investments on the ground, but to make sure the Greater Little Mountain Area remains a special place for generations to come.”
The release of the draft plan initiated a 90-day public comment period, which will end on Nov. 16. Additionally, a 60-day comment period will be open specifically for the proposed ACECs included in the agency’s preferred alternative.
“BLM encourages the public to provide information and comments regarding the analysis presented in the draft RMP and EIS,” reads the document. “Timely comments on the Rock Springs draft RMP and EIS will help formulate the proposed RMP and final EIS.”
“We are particularly interested in comments concerning the adequacy and accuracy of the proposed alternatives, the analysis of their respective management decisions and any new information which would help the BLM as it continues to develop the RMP,” it continues.
BLM will also hold public meetings on the draft RMP and EIS in Rock Springs, Lyman and Big Piney in coming weeks. Meeting dates have yet to be announced.
Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.