Gordon, ag groups call for withdrawal of BLM's Rock Springs plan

CHEYENNE, WY., September 27, 2023 — Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has requested that the Bureau of Land Management Rock Springs Field Office’s Draft Resource Management Plan Revision (RMP) and accompanying Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the planning area. The area encompasses 3.6-million-acres of public lands and 3.7 million acres of Federal mineral estate in portions of Lincoln, Sweetwater, Uinta, Sublette, and Fremont counties in southwest Wyoming. The draft plan, which has been in development for 12 years at the cost of nearly $9 million, could greatly reduce multiple uses on the BLM administered land.

Jim Magagna, executive director of the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association said on a call with other industry groups, both agriculture and other industries like energy as well as county commissioners, all the groups are calling for the BLM to withdraw the plan and reissue it with a more reasonable preferred alternative.

He said the BLM indicated they would include one proposed alternative but, in reality, presented another that is far more problematic. This was included in the draft and released without communication or notification to the various cooperating agencies, including the governor’s office.

Magagna said the ACEC designation has been historically used for smaller areas, opposed to the proposed 1.3 million acres in the draft plan. The plan reduces 7,606 AUMs of grazing, retains 227,960 acres of Wilderness Study Area (WSA), adds 63,918 acres “to protect wilderness characteristics,” and limits off-road vehicle use to designated roads and trails.

 “In the past, it’s been used for small areas that have really unique characteristics and they’re applying it to half of the Rock Springs Management Area, 1.56 million acres of ACEC and that literally puts everything at risk,” he said. “It means no energy development, renewable or fossil fuel, either one and no mining.”

Southwest Wyoming has been heavily dependent on energy development and is home to the most important trona mining reserves in the country, as well as hunting, fishing, and recreational opportunities.

“If we lost the livestock grazing, most of the ranching operations would not remain viable because the amount of private land is just too small to support a year-round ranching operation,” he said.

Cooperating agencies last met in 2020 regarding the draft which was subsequently changed significantly with no communication with communicating agencies, including the governor’s office.

The plan has drawn fire from Wyoming Senators John Barasson and Cynthia Lummis, both R-WY.

Barasso issued a statement that said, “The Biden administration continues to attack our Wyoming way of life. The latest hit job from the Bureau of Land Management aims to take control of 1.8 million acres of land in Wyoming. This blatant land grab completely dismisses practical solutions proposed by local land managers, local agencies, and the people who live and work on this land."

The BLM has opened a 90-day public comment period, which is scheduled to close on Nov. 16. The draft may be found at https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/13853/510.

Source: Western Ag Network