I have been trying to keep up with the discussions that have been going on in reference to the proposed resource management plan (RMP) for the Rock Springs District of the Bureau of Land Management. There is so much misinformation in the press and public discussion, it makes my head spin.
I spent a 41-year-career with the State of Wyoming, almost all of it as a law enforcement officer (damage control warden and game warden) with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in the Green River Region. There are many extremely important conservation needs in the area covered by this RMP.
Many people in the area are concerned with Greater Little Mountain, Adobe Town, and what is often referred to as the golden triangle or the area roughly between the Sweetwater River and the Big Sandy River. Prior to my retirement in 2014, I spent lots of years and miles patrolling these portions of the Red Desert and I still enjoy spending time in these areas.
Several news stories have talked a lot about local and state government positions on the proposed RMP, most of which are negative. One thing that got me more wound up than many comments was an explanation of a proposed measure from the Wyoming Legislature to fund a fight with the federal government.
One news outlet stated that “Lawmakers proposed the measure because of dissatisfaction over the US Bureau of Land Management’s effort to put conservation on an equal footing with resource development in the Rock Springs area of southwest Wyoming.”
WHAT!? Whatever happened to the supposedly tried and true concept of multiple use of public lands? Who thought conservation, one of the many multiple uses, ever entered into the mix, let alone be on anywhere near equal footing?
Conservation includes taking care of OUR wildlife resources. Greater Sage Grouse, big game, small game, fish, raptors and even feral horses are all important to those of us who live and recreate in the Red Desert and around southwest Wyoming.
For my entire career, I saw things happen that put wildlife on a much lower footing than resource development. Exceptions were routinely granted for access on and across crucial big game winter ranges resulting in putting people in areas where poaching deer, and even ‘recreational running over’ of pronghorn occurred.
Had some folks been kept off these winter ranges during critical time periods, animals would not have been disturbed and killed. Sage grouse leks and nesting areas were encroached upon and we have already been threatened with the possibility of sage grouse being listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Are we so selfish and affected by dollar signs from resource development and extraction that we can’t do anything to protect OUR wildlife and wild areas? Can we use common sense in our use of public lands so that some of the restrictions complained about that may or may not be in the RMP draft aren’t necessary?
Much of the area covered by this RMP are already leased for resource development. There is lots of land available for solar and wind development, but there are lots of roof tops that can hold solar panels rather than taking square miles of land out of any other kind of production or use. Some portions of migration corridors are being helped by funding highway crossing projects while other portions are being blocked by many types of development.
Technology has improved our ability to recreate in the outdoors and some folks seem to think we should be able to go wherever we want with whatever means necessary to get there. In my opinion, these are places we can still go, but maybe we don’t need to be able to drive to all those places. We all still have feet, some of us have horses and other non-motorized methods of getting around.
The draft RMP is really difficult to read through and determine what each of the alternatives offers, but please let’s try and make some sense out of it rather than say what it really doesn’t and try and come up with comments that are well thought out and can provide some common ground for us to agree on and not fight over.