BLM Wild Lands
Honeycomb Buttes WSA | LightAlive Photography
Wyoming's Red Desert &
Rock Springs Planning Area
The Red Desert is a place with open spaces, wildness, and immense beauty. It is also home to numerous iconic species such as mule deer, desert elk, and pygmy rabbits. We must fight to ensure this areas remains wild by participating in the management revision process with the BLM.
The Bureau of Land Management’s Rock Springs Field Office is revising its resource management plan. This land-use plan will direct the management for the next 15-20 years for 3.6 million acres for what is called the Rock Springs Planning Area. This area include parts of the Northern Red Desert and other adjacent lands such as the Bid Sandy Foothills, Little Mountain, and Devils Playground. The planning area contains 13 wilderness study areas (WSAs), a newly discovered mule deer migration corridor, and the largest desert elk herd in the lower 48 states.
Timeline for RMP
Present – Alternatives analysis
2nd-3rd Qt – 2019 – Draft RMP revision/Draft EIS
4th Qt – 2019 – Proposed RMP revision/Final EIS
2020 – Record of Decision
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, is 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.
Adobe Town | Shaleas Harrison
How You Can Help Protect BLM Lands
Want to get involved in the protection of BLM Wild Lands?
Write an LTE expressing support for wilderness lands in the Red Desert
Contact your county commissioner to express your support for the protection of BLM Wilderness Study Areas in the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative
Submit a public comment during Resource Management Plan public comment periods
Join our summer outings
Sign up for our mailing list to stay informed and for updates on how you can help
For more information, contact BLM Wild Lands Community Organizer, Shaleas Harrison.
Laramie Plains Civic Center
710 E. Garfield St., Room 326
Laramie, WY 82070
Growing up on a small farm in Wyoming, Shaleas has an intimate connection to natural resources. During her time as an undergraduate she studied molecular biology and chemistry. She completed her Masters in Natural Science and Environmental and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming. Her graduate research project revealed how a program worked to overcome the complex socioeconomic, cultural, and political aspects that challenge natural resource management. Since then, Shaleas has taught high school physics and biology in Wyoming and is now eagerly applying her knowledge of complex public land issues for the Wyoming Wilderness Association. Shaleas enjoys all things wild, including rock climbing and fighting against the systems of power that threaten Wyoming's remaining wild country.
About Wyoming's BLM Wild Lands
There are more than 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. However, 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.
Red Desert EcoFlight
Thanks to the amazing folks at EcoFlight and lightALIVE photography, WWA would like to share with you this amazing footage from flights within the Red Desert!
Wilderness Characteristic 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 90s and to provide the BLM with a suite of new data. Arguably the most important part of this comprehensive inventory process included route analyses and identifying 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.
The Wyoming Wilderness Association and its partners will continue to submit LWC inventories in developing planning processes such as the Rock Springs RMP and will ensure that the BLM’s Wyoming Field Offices fully implement LWC policies as set forth in BLM Manuals 6310 and 6320.
WY PBS: Understanding the Red Desert
In December of 2014, WY PBS aired a two part special about the Red Desert through the Wyoming Chronicles series.
With stunning images from lightALIVE photography and a panel discussion touching on current issues and threats to the area, we are able to better understand the beauty, land use and challenges of managing the 9,000-plus square miles that make up this high altitude desert and sagebrush steppe located in south central Wyoming.
Click the links below to access the series.