Wyoming politicians continue to blast the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed plans for millions of acres of public land in the Rock Springs area, claiming it would shut out hunters, ranchers and others.
“It is an absolute, full-on effort to completely disallow the use of these lands,” said state Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett.
He made his remarks during an online town hall meeting hosted this week by the Wyoming Freedom Caucus, which was joined by other legislators.
Meanwhile, the co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands & Water Resources Committee sent a letter to BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning stating that the Rock Springs Resource Management Plan offers no good options for Wyoming. They admonished Stone-Manning should extend the public comment period on the proposal to at least March 2024.
The current public comment period on the Rock Springs RMP is open until Nov. 16. People can file comments online.
The letter was signed by Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, and Rep. Barry Crago, R-Buffalo, and sent to Stone-Manning on Tuesday.
Steinmetz told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that there hadn’t yet been any response to the letter. She added that the Rock Springs RMP mirrors similar restrictive plans proposed for BLM and Forest Service lands across Wyoming and the West.
Wyoming Officials Have Hated Plan From The Start
The Rock Springs BLM field office oversees roughly 3.6 million acres in Wyoming. The draft RMP designates 1.8 million acres of that as “areas of critical environmental concern” (ACES).
Gov. Mark Gordon and other Wyoming elected officials harshly criticized the draft Rock Springs RMP when it was released last month.
During a hearing before the U.S. Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Harriett Hageman, R-Wyoming, grilled BLM Deputy Director of Operations Mike Nedd over the implications the RMP could have for energy development.
Hageman claimed the proposed restrictions would go far beyond energy companies.
“You exclude not only oil and gas development, but livestock grazing and recreation,” she told Nedd during the hearing. “And is it your intent to prohibit American citizens from accessing their lands?”
Nedd pushed back against the implication that plan would shut people out of BLM lands in Wyoming.
The intent is to “use the land in a way that allows all Americans, both present and future generations, to enjoy and benefit from it,” he said in response to Hageman.
Worse Than Civil War, Pearl Harbor And 9/11 Combined
During the online town hall, Rep. Bill Allemand, R- Midwest, claimed that the Rock Springs RMP and similar proposals in Wyoming and across the country are part of the 30x30 project, a conservation plan endorsed by the Biden administration and other global leaders.
The 30×30 project has an ambitious vision of setting aside for conservation 30% of the world’s wildlands by 2030.
Allemand claimed that’s part of a broader 40x40 and 50x50 vision to set aside 40% of those wildlands by 2040 and half by 2050.
He called the plan “unconstitutional” because it cuts out the veto power of local and state governments in the federal land acquisition process, adding that it has terrible implications.
“This is probably the biggest disaster in the history of the United States, affecting more people than the Civil War, Pearl Harbor or 9/11 combined,” Allemand said.
He and other legislators urged the virtual town hall attendees to call Gordon and encourage the governor to push back against the Rock Springs RMP.
No More Access For Hunters?
In his remarks during the town hall, Rep. John Winter, R-Thermopolis,said he is familiar with the lands in question. He worked for the BLM there in the 1960s and 1970s as a range conservationist and wild horse specialist.
Winter, who now works as a hunting guide, said he’s concerned that the Rock Springs RMP would essentially designate most the land as “wilderness.” That would eliminate any motorized use, thereby severely limiting hunters’ access to the incredibly vast stretches of land that game could hide in, he said.
“We have enough designated wilderness in Wyoming right now,” Winter said.
Do Ranchers Get A Say?
And the draft RMP could all but shut down cattle grazing on BLM lands, said Rep. Allen Slagle, R-Newcastle.
The BLM claims that riparian zones, or lush patches of vegetation nears small streams, need to be protected from cattle grazing, he said.
But Slagle thinks that’s a wrongheaded approach.
“There wasn’t any riparian zones until farmers and ranchers came into this country and all the wild animals — the buffalo and elk — were moved off of those areas. And the ranchers have fenced their cattle off of these riparian zones and have let them grow,” he said. “And now government, and specifically in this case the BLM, is using riparian zones against us to get our cattle totally off these lands.”
Slagle also criticized the plan for allowing county commissions, conservation districts and others onboard as “cooperating agencies,” while shutting out from that role ranchers with BLM grazing leases.
“Who do you think really knows best about this land? Somebody who has been educated in a university and has no real experience in ag, or a family who has been on the land for at least 100 years, managing the land to make it most productive for them and their family? And yet we aren’t even given a seat at the table when they’re discussing these lands,” he said.
Mark Heinz can be reached at email@example.com.