Wyoming Fights Federal Plans for Land Management


Ranchers and government officials in Wyoming are deeply concerned about a newly-released plan from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that would designate a massive region of high desert sagebrush steppe in Southwest Wyoming an “area of critical environmental concern.”

The proposal offers four management plans for an area of 3.6 million acres of public land. Alternative B, the path openly preferred and recommended by the BLM and Biden administration, would close off roughly 1.8 million acres to oil and gas leasing, as well as mining, motor vehicles, and even grazing.

Alternative A would leave management as is, Alternative C would maximize energy and other development, Alternative D would represent a balance.

Years of work went into the 1,350-page Rock Springs resource management plan, a draft of which was finally released in August to the general alarm of Wyoming officials and residents.

Senator John Barasso (R-WY) dubbed it a “hit job” and “land grab,” while Congresswoman Harriet Hageman (R-WY) called the draft “disastrous,” “misguided,” and “not workable” in a public statement demanding its withdrawal.

Other state lawmakers rushed to head off the damage by putting forward a measure that would bar state and local authorities from cooperating with any federal agency “when they pursue policies which harm Wyoming’s core interests.”

This move in is in keeping with a consistent trend since President Joe Biden’s selected chief Tracy Stone-Manning took over the bureau. While the stated purpose of the BLM is to administer public lands for development and use, in its current era BLM leadership appears bent on making public land inaccessible and off limits to Americans. In August, President Biden announced a new national monument in Arizona, closing 1 million acres to citizen access and reaffirming his commitment to removing 30% of the nation’s land from economic development by 2030. As opposed to responsible human management, the conservation vision for America’s public lands under the current administration is clear: neglect, abandonment, high fences.

The tourism board in Sweetwater County, which covers much of the area at issue, published an open letter claiming Alternative B would have a “devastating effect on tourism, economic development, and quality of life.” Tourism revenue generated over $160 million for the county in 2022. The letter also criticized Biden’s BLM for refusing to allow public comment during drafting of the proposal.

Sweetwater County Sheriff John Grossnickle vowed his office will not comply with any enforcement action related to the draft plan, which he said reflects the “continued effort of the current administration to weaponize executive privilege and rulemaking authority to circumvent the democratic process to impose a political agenda that bypasses the voters and the will of our people. Because of this, if the restrictions of the preferred alternative of the Rock Springs RMP are set in place, the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office will not cooperate with or assist the BLM with enforcement action regarding the Rock Springs RMP.”

Meanwhile, Taylor Jones, the Sweetwater County Commissioner, said he personally supports the sheriff’s stance.

Officials in nearby Western states also expressed their opposition to the Biden Administration’s plan. Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney of Utah warned it will prove disastrous for Americans who rely on the land for grazing and natural gas.

The BLM has acknowledged errors in the draft plan, including an indicated plan to close thousands of miles of roads. A spokesman for the bureau said this language is inaccurate and will be removed.

Thanks to general protest and concerted efforts by Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon and others, the public comment period for the Rock Springs management plan has been extended to January 17, 2024. Viewers can read the plan and leave a comment here.

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