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Public Lands in Wyoming

Half of Wyoming’s lands are federally managed as national parks, monuments, forests, recreation areas, wildlife refuges, or public land. These include some of the most iconic places in the nation and they help support healthy ecosystems and wildlife populations.

Wyoming’s public lands offer extraordinary opportunities like hunting, fishing, outdoor recreation, solitude in remote places, and abundant wildlife. At the Wyoming Outdoor Council, we advocate for balanced management of public lands that respects multiple use. And as we look ahead, we’re mindful of working against the backdrop of Wyoming’s changing economy. Our state relies heavily on oil, gas, and coal revenues to fund local government. But the boom-bust nature of resource extraction can create uncertainty and instability. Meanwhile, instead of taking the long view, some lawmakers push short-term agendas — seeking state management or even sale of our public lands. We’ve been successful in defeating these attempts by providing leadership within the Keep it Public, Wyoming coalition, and we continue to support keeping public lands in public hands, robust public participation in resource management, and transparency in decisionmaking.

Many of our public lands in Wyoming are leased or already developed for industrial uses such as oil and gas drilling, hard rock and coal mining, and industrial-scale wind generation. Where development is appropriate on public lands, we advocate for “doing it right,” developing in a way that avoids or minimizes impacts to other resources.

At the same time, there are places in Wyoming that are too special to drill. We advocate for conservation of important values like big game migration corridors, opportunities for back country recreation, and the highest Greater sage-grouse density areas on earth. The opportunity to access wild, open spaces on our public lands contributes to an unparalleled quality of life for Wyoming residents. Visited by millions of people each year, these lands also add significantly to our state’s economy.

Where’s the Balance in Wyoming?
Public Lands Lease Report Part I: Wild Speculation in Wild Places

Over the past few years, stunning amounts of public lands in Wyoming have been leased for development. Hundreds of thousands of acres have been offered for lease by the Bureau of Land Management each year, including 760,000 acres in a single sale in 2019. The BLM has consistently leased swaths of land within mule deer migration corridors and crucial winter range, as well as sage-grouse priority habitat. 

As of March 2020, 10.7 million acres of public lands managed by the BLM were leased for oil and gas — an area almost five times the size of Yellowstone National Park. At the Wyoming Outdoor Council, we wonder where the balance is — and why our exceptional wildlife, outdoor recreation, and historical and cultural resources are being ignored.

That’s why we’re publishing a two-part report on the management of public lands in Wyoming, which includes infographics, photos, and interactive maps so you can better understand what’s at stake. In Part I, we focus on speculative oil and gas leasing.

TAKE ACTION

HELP KEEP SOUTHWEST WYOMING A WORKING LANDSCAPE THAT ALLOWS FOR MULTIPLE USE

The Bureau of Land Management is poised to strip the hard-fought protections that allow for multiple use of public lands in southwest Wyoming in favor just one use: oil and gas development. Unfortunately, the BLM has largely ignored the public as it prepares to finalize the Rock Springs Resource Management Plan to set land use priorities for the next 20 years. But local entities in southwest Wyoming with a seat at the RMP revision table can help make a difference.

If you live in southwest Wyoming, please contact your city officials, your county commissioners, and your conservation districts. Tell them that Wyomingites care deeply about the special places in this corner of the state, and that your livelihoods and way of life here will be undermined by a major overhaul in favor of a single use. Ask them to let southwest Wyoming continue to be a working landscape that balances a full spectrum of uses. And wherever in Wyoming you live,  send Gov. Mark Gordon the same message.

You can use our tool below to find contacts for your city officials in southwest Wyoming, as well as click here for a full listing of conservation districts and county commissioners.

LATEST FIELD NOTES, NEWS, & ACTIONS

WYOMING PIPELINE CORRIDOR INITIATIVE: On July we submitted comments on a draft environmental impact statement and land use plan amendments related to the initiative, which would designate a roughly 2,000-mile pipeline right-of-way across the state. Our comments, authored by conservation advocate John Rader, focus on threats to wildlife habitat, an inadequate review of groundwater impacts, and a lack of engagement with tribes. Our legal intern Ryan Sedgely was also heavily involved in this analysis.

THE WYOMING PUBLIC LANDS INITIATIVE: While WPLI, which was implemented by the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, wrapped up about two years ago, it was only recently that U.S. Senator John Barrasso drafted a bill codifying the counties’ recommendations regarding our state’s wilderness study areas. Although we had hoped this process could achieve conservation gains for our treasured public lands in Wyoming, we ultimately did not support most of the county-specific proposals (Carbon County was the exception, due to the strong consensus the county built with diverse stakeholders). But because we can’t support the other counties’ recommendations, we cannot support Sen. Barrasso’s bill. Program director Steff Kessler along with Kristen Gunther wrote to the senator in July asking him to set the bill aside and instead work toward building public land legislation in Wyoming that has broad grassroots support.

A dream for the Red Desert

A dream for the Red Desert

It’s the heart of winter in Wyoming and, for many of us, it’s a favorite time of year. The days are short and the nights are cold, but the snow brings a quiet, peaceful stillness and lends a special beauty to everyday life. For some, that means skiing, snowmobiling or ice fishing. For others, hunkering down with a hot drink and good book or movie is the best way to enjoy the season.

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