Skip to Content

The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

Workshops held to gather public input on Rock Springs RMP

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

On Nov. 17-18, Gov. Mark Gordon hosted three interactive public workshops in Sweetwater County regarding the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) draft resource management plan (RMP) and environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Rock Springs Field Office (RSFO), released in August. 

The meetings were organized by the University of Wyoming’s (UW) Ruckelshaus Institute; the UW College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources; the UW School of Energy Resources and the Wyoming County Commissioners Association. 

Public input at the workshops will be used to inform a governor-appointed task force composed of various leaders representing everything from recreation, industry, conservation, agriculture and local government, among others. 

With this public input, the task force will develop recommendations to deliver to the governor and the BLM in January. 

During the second workshop, held on the morning of Nov. 18 in Green River, Gordon’s Natural Resource Policy Advisor Nolan Rap provided some insight into what the governor is hoping to gain from the public. 

“We want to use this process to inform the governor’s task force so we can provide the BLM a package of what the people who live, work and recreate in this state want for our public lands,” he said. “We really want to hear honest, good-faith input from all of you about what is important to you about these lands.” 

“As equally important as this task force is, it is also important for everyone to make separate comments to the BLM as well,” he added.

Understanding RMPs

Temple Stoellinger, associate professor and Wyoming Excellence Chair at the UW Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources and College of Law, was next to address those in attendance, providing context and information to better understand RMPs in general. 

To begin, Stoellinger explained the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) is the major statute governing BLM to manage public lands for multiple use and sustained yield, which is accomplished through the development of RMPs. 

Specifically, she explained RMPs are centered around goals and objectives which guide land and resource actions implemented by the BLM, and they typically last in duration from 10 to 20 years.

Stoellinger also outlined the RMP process, which begins with an agency determining an RMP revision is necessary and moves into a public scoping period.

“Scoping is the first step, and this is where the BLM identifies major planning issues,” she explained. “They get input from the public about major issues that need to be addressed in the RMP, then they release the draft RMP and EIS.” 

After circulating the documents, the agency must provide a 90-day public comment period, and in the case of the RSFO’s RMP, the BLM has also issued a 60-day extension. Now, public comment will be accepted until Jan. 17. 

“The BLM will take these comments, develop a proposed plan and then a final RMP and EIS will be released,” Stoellinger explained. “There is a 30-day protest period, concurrent with a 60-day governor’s consistency review, and then the final record of decision (ROD) will be released.” 

Stoellinger pointed out only those who submit comments can participate in the protest period, and only after the final decision is released can legal challenges be raised. 

Navigating the RSFO RMP 

Although having a general understanding of RMPs is important, it is also critical for individuals to comprehend the RSFO RMP specifically. 

“I am going to talk about how to better inform our comments by reading the RMP, which as many well know, is a huge document at over 1,300 pages,” stated Wyoming County Commissioners Association Natural Resource Counsel Micah Christensen.

Instead of attempting to read the entire document, Christensen recommended reading the first 36 pages, which includes the executive summary, a glossary of terms and the table of contents. 

“Unfortunately, we aren’t going to learn it through osmosis. We will have to actually read it, and our comments are going to be a lot better for it,” said Christensen. “Thankfully, the BLM breaks down their very comprehensive plan into different chapters, a purpose and need statement, a range of alternatives, environmental consequences of these alternatives and some additional special designations.” 

Christensen noted the purpose of the Rock Springs RMP is to “provide an updated, comprehensive and environmentally-adequate framework for managing and allocating uses of public lands and resources administered by the BLM in the RSFO.”

“The Rock Springs RMP will address changing news of the planning area by updating information and revising management goals, objectives and decisions, while ensuring public lands are managed according to the principles of multiple use identified in FLPMA while maintaining the valid existing rights and other obligations already established,” reads the purpose statement. 

The need statement reads, “Since the ROD for the Green River RMP was signed in 1997, new data has become available, new policies established and old policies revised. Additionally, completion of multiple maintenance actions for the Green River RMP, along with multiple RMP amendments and RODs for programmatic EIS documents are needed to be incorporated into the updated RMP.” 

Additionally, the Rock Springs RMP includes four alternatives. 

These include Alternative A, the no action alternative, in which the agency would continue managing public lands the same way they have since 1997. 

Alternative B is the BLM’s preferred alternative, which emphasizes the “conservation of resource values with restraints on resource uses.”

Alternative C suggests the least restrictive management actions, and Alternative D is a management approach using less restrictions on resource uses than Alternative B but more of a conservation focus than Alternative C.

Although the BLM has provided a solid range of alternatives, Christensen noted this doesn’t mean the agency has to settle on one in its entirety. 

“We can take certain pieces that we like from all of the alternatives and work together to build something different,” he said.


substantive comments

During their presentations, Stoellinger and Christensen also offered advice on how to provide the BLM with meaningful, substantive comments. 

According to Stoellinger, the National Environmental Policy Act requires the BLM to respond to all of the substantive comments they receive from the public, and their response may come in the form of changing the final RMP or EIS, providing factual corrections, modifying the analysis of the alternatives, proposing new alternatives or offering an explanation about why a comment many not require the agency’s response. 

She further noted postcard campaigns in support or opposition don’t count as “substantive.” 

“It is best to offer a substantive comment that requires a response from the BLM,” she said. “To do this, it is important to be clear and concise and to specifically talk about something relevant to the analysis of the proposal. Be sure to bring in some personal experience as well.” 

“In addition, it is helpful to be solution oriented and to provide specific examples,” she added. “Rather than discuss what you oppose, talk about what you would like to see instead.”

Christensen reiterated the importance of the purpose and need statements when submitting comments. 

“We want to make sure our comments are in line with the RMP’s purpose and need because this is what the BLM is trying to accomplish,” he said. “If an individual has a better idea of how they might achieve these goals, it should be incorporated into their comment submission.” 

Stoellinger concluded, “Even if an agency receives a number of negative comments, it doesn’t necessarily prevent the action from moving forward, but it certainly does help the situation. I can’t stress enough how important it is to write individual, specific and substantive comments to the BLM.” 

The workshop concluded with attendees splitting up into breakout sessions where they had the opportunity to share their input with the governor’s task force.

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

Back to top