By Lisa McGee, program director
Dear members and supporters,
The U.S. Forest Service has released its final revised Shoshone forest plan, a document that will guide management of the country’s first national forest for 20 years or longer.
Although the agency is calling the plan “final,” in reality, there is still an opportunity for us to help improve it before it is published as a record of decision.
As many readers know, the Wyoming Outdoor Council has consistently engaged in this plan revision process for the better part of a decade with the overarching goal of protecting the wild, backcountry character of the Shoshone.
Specifically, we have focused our efforts on safeguarding the forest from future industrial oil and gas development.
The Shoshone has very little acreage currently leased for oil and gas development and there are no active oil and gas wells on the forest. We seek to keep it that way. There are many places where oil and gas development is appropriate. The Shoshone National Forest is not one of them.
We are pleased that the final plan reduces the amount of land where oil and gas surface disturbance can occur by 84 percent: down to 129,000 acres total from roughly 800,000 available in the previous plan.
This change is important because it ensures greater compatibility with the management of adjacent BLM and tribal lands. It also safeguards open space and wildlife habitat on the forest’s front country lands, maintaining recreational access and contributing to the high quality of life that people in surrounding communities enjoy.
Thanks to our members, concerned citizens, tribal leaders, local government officials, and Governor Matt Mead for supporting this change.
One area that can and should be improved
Although the plan’s direction for future oil and gas development is great news, there’s one facet of the plan we think can be improved.
Even though the Shoshone has incredible potential wilderness areas, the Forest Service chose not to recommend any new wilderness areas in its final plan.
The Forest Service’s own evaluation highlighted the four highest quality backcountry areas on the Shoshone: Wood River, Francs Peak, Trout Creek, and the Dunoir.
Short of a wilderness recommendation, we urged the Forest Service to achieve a good compromise: to protect the wilderness character of these areas by managing them for backcountry, non-motorized use.
The final forest plan, however, as written recommends no new wilderness and allows expanded motorized use in two of the four highest quality areas: Francs Peak and Wood River. We are seeking to change this.
Specifics on what we’re seeking
We are asking the Forest Service to either recommend some or all of these four backcountry areas as wilderness or to return to the sound compromise it outlined in its draft preferred alternative: namely, the year-round, non-motorized prescription, and in the case of the Dunoir, a non-motorized and non-mechanized management prescription.
Such a decision would help ensure the backcountry character of the Shoshone is retained and improved over the life of this new plan.
Concerned citizens who have already participated in the plan revision process can file objections by March 24.
The Outdoor Council will object to the proposed management of three of the highest quality backcountry areas, and we are hopeful that we will see some important improvements.
The Shoshone National Forest is hosting public open houses in communities around the forest next week.
If you are interested in learning more, please consider attending. The schedule is below.
They will each begin at 5 p.m. and end at 7 p.m.
- Monday, Feb 24, Cody (Park County Library)
- Tuesday, Feb. 25, Dubois (Headwaters Center)
- Wednesday, Feb. 26 Lander (Pronghorn Lodge)
- Thursday, Feb. 27 Thermopolis (Big Horn Federal Bank)
Thank you for your years of support for our work to keep the Shoshone wild!
Other posts of interest:
The View from Cheyenne—How a bill becomes a law
Orphaned Wells: Dealing With Unseen Threats to Wyoming’s Groundwater
Flashpoint: It’s Time to Reduce Waste and Pollution from Flaring
MEDIA RELEASE: New Wyoming Groundwater Rule Approved