There are over 18 million acres of public lands administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Wyoming. These landscapes are typically at lower elevations than many National Forest lands in the state and, as a result, are characterized by their desert ecosystems. These badlands, dune fields, rock outcrops, sagebrush communities, alkali flats and other special environments make up the majority of Wyoming BLM land. Unfortunately, the protection of the remaining primitive and wild landscapes on these lands and the conservation of sensitive species has not been a top tier priority of the BLM in Wyoming. Fortunately, a small percentage of Wyoming BLM lands remain undeveloped, at least for now. These lands are much of what remains of our Wyoming heritage and WWA is working to ensure that development is carefully planned to protect these lands.
For more information about our current work on BLM lands please visit the following links or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The BLM is required by law to update their Resource Management Plans (RMPs) every 15-20 years. Examples of the management decisions that are made in RMPs include stipulations for oil and gas leasing, recreational opportunities for certain areas, and which lands will be protected to preserve its natural character. The revision of RMPs provides an opportunity to influence how special wild landscapes throughout Wyoming will be managed for approximately 2 decades. The Wyoming Wilderness Association is currently working to ensure that special wild landscapes are adequately protected during RMP revisions. Part of WWA’s involvement in this land use planning process is ensuring that dialogue between stakeholders occurs and that local community members have a voice in how public lands are managed. The RMP revisions that WWA is engaged in include:
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The Red Desert has immense value for a number of stakeholders including ranchers, historians, archeologists, birders, hunters, geologists, and many others. Currently, WWA is working to develop consensus on future management for the Red Desert amongst a variety of stakeholders. This work is part of an effort to increase stakeholder communication and consensus that is a key component of WWA’s work during the Rock Springs BLM Resource Management Plan Revision and for future congressional protections.
A Few Red Desert Facts:
-The ancient Lake Gosiute formerly covered much of Southwest Wyoming including the Red Desert. Consequently, the observant explorer may discover shells of ancient turtles or even fossilized alligator bones, testaments to the rich ecological history of the area.
-Red Desert travelers can visit the remnants of South Pass Stage Road, a passage carved in the sand by westward bound settlers on the Oregon Trail.
-Wyoming’s last remaining desert elk herd, the Sands Elk Herd are found in the Red Desert
-The northern Red Desert is home to nine Wilderness Study Areas which feature untouched badlands, hoodoos, vast expanses of a pristine sagebrush ecosystem, dune fields, and rock outcrops
- The last truly wild bison in Wyoming reputedly died in the Red Desert
-The largest migratory sand dune formation in North America is found in the Red Desert
-The only other comparable example of a pristine sagebrush steppe ecosystem, in terms of size and quality, is found in Mongolia. The sagebrush steppe ecosystem is one of the most endangered in the world.
Wilderness Characteristics Inventories
The BLM is required by law to conduct and keep inventories of BLM lands with potential wilderness characteristics. Part of this inventory process allows for submissions of information to the BLM from citizens and non-governmental groups. During 2012 and 2013 the Wyoming Wilderness Association inventoried over 450,000 acres of potential wilderness-quality BLM lands in Wyoming to update our inventories conducted in the early 90’s and to provide the BLM with a suite of new data. Arguably the most important part of this comprehensive inventory process included route analyses; identifying and the presence/absence of roads on potential lands with wilderness characteristics. The presence of a road can have wide-ranging implications for future wilderness designations. Newly mapped roads can alter potential boundaries, cut previously identified areas in half, rendering them too small to be considered for future designation, impact the visual landscape and compromise opportunities for solitude; all things critical to the confirmation or rejection of areas as possessing wilderness characteristics.
Without a protective policy for the BLM such as the Roadless Rule for National Forest lands, WWA has attempted to utilize what tools we have to initiate conversations surrounding protection of our critically important yet dwindling wild BLM places in Wyoming. As new roads proliferate, encroaching on some of our most primitive landscapes, we must do what we can now to establish baseline data and communicate with the BLM, local, state and federal officials about the current value of these places. Ultimately, our finished inventory product should help explain why many of these areas should receive the management they deserve, protecting them for fish, wildlife, clean water and future generations of all Americans.
The inventory data from 2012-2013 is already proving to be an invaluable tool in working to protect these often forgotten BLM wild lands. The data is instrumental in helping us determine our priority areas as well as providing valuable high quality information for our comments regarding oil and gas lease sales and Resource Management Plan revisions. Wilderness Characteristics of BLM lands, as stipulated in the BLM Manual 6310 can be found here.
The following links provide information about a variety of wild BLM landscapes in Wyoming.