THE PALISADES WILDERNESS STUDY AREA
Within the last few decades, a love for motorized and mechanized recreation has created a wave of opposition to the protections provided by the Wilderness Act of 1964. As this conflict spreads across the west and around the globe, our film The Palisades Project uses a little known wild landscape located in the northwest corner of Wyoming to expose this issue and inspire opposing sides towards a solution
BRIDGER -TETON NATIONAL FOREST
The Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) is located in western Wyoming and totals 3.4 million acres, making it the second largest National Forest outside Alaska. The BTNF stretches south from Yellowstone National Park to the southern end of the Wind River Range, with boundaries of Grand Teton National Park to the west and the slope of the Continental Divide to the east. It also encompasses the Salt River Range, Snake River Range and Wyoming Range. Located within the Forest are the Gros Ventre, Bridger and Teton Wilderness areas totaling 1.3 million acres. The presence of both the Palisades and Shoal Creek Wilderness Study Areas along with 1.5 million acres of roadless land make this Forest a priority landscape for us. There is incredible potential to protect these wildlands within the Wilderness Preservation System and ensure their wilderness character for generations to come. Currently WWA is focusing efforts on the upcoming Forest Plan revision where agency level recommendations would provide important momentum for additional congressionally designated Wilderness, and strong management guidelines for wildlands Forest wide. For more information on our work on the BTNF, please contact our BT Organizer.
SHOSHONE NATIONAL FOREST
The Shoshone National Forest is the nation’s first National Forest, and arguably one of the wildest! The forest encompasses a total of 2.4 million acres making up an important swath of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, one of the last ecologically intact temperate ecosystems on earth. Ranging from the Wild and Scenic Clark’s Fork River (4,600 ft) to the top of Wyoming’s highest peak ( 13,804 ft), the Shoshone is an essential part of the contiguous landscape that supports Greater Yellowstone’s world-renowned wildlife populations and migration routes. Known as the Horse Forest, the Shoshone’s frontcountry areas are as wild, rugged and remote as it’s designated Wilderness areas.
WWA worked to protect the Shoshone’s most pristine wildlands through a decade-long public Forest Plan revision process. Signed in 2015, the Final Forest Plan confirmed the Shoshone’s niche as a unique backcountry, primitive Forest, and protected several priority wildlands as non-motorized or non-mechanized. Still, the fate of many of the Forest’s inventoried roadless areas and frontcountry recreation areas will be determined through Travel Planning. The Final Forest Plan said what CAN happen on the Shoshone’s wildlands, but the Travel Plan says what WILL.
KEEP THE RED DESERT WILD
Wyoming’s Northern Red Desert is a vast expanse of public lands composed of sand dunes, badlands, canyons, and immense open spaces all scattered beneath a shattering blue sky. Bisected by the Oregon Trail and the longest mule deer migration corridor on Earth, this landscape contains cultural and historical sites for Indigenous peoples and early western pioneers, vital wildlife habitat, and incredible opportunities for recreation and reflection in absolute solitude. However, pressures from extractive industries have shaped how the Bureau of Land Management has chosen to administer this landscape leading to extensive speculative leasing around the desert, and a patchwork of regulatory ambiguity.
Directed and produced by Javier Fernandez & Greg Mionske and released by Patagonia, Unfenced examines the history of protection of the Red Desert, the pressures industry has exerted on the BLM, and how recreation can help the public see the Red Desert for what it is: a treasure for Wyoming and the nation.
The BLM oversees the vast majority of the public land that makes up the Red Desert. The agency is in the midst of revising its long-term, landscape-wide planning document, called a Resource Management Plan (RMP), which will detail the range of acceptable activities within the landscape. This plan has now been in the works for a decade – without the opportunity for the public to comment on management priorities.
Wyoming's BLM Wildlands
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, alkali flats, and sagebrush sea 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.
The Rock Springs Resource Management Plan (RMP)
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 includes 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), the best remaining sage grouse habitat left on Earth, the longest known mule deer migration corridor, and the largest desert elk herd in the lower 48 states. WWA has been an engaged partner in a coalition dedicated to ensuring strong conservation outcomes in the Rock Springs RMP since the process began in 2011, and will continue to advocate for the protection of wild places in the Rock Springs Field Office.
BIG HORN NATIONAL FOREST
Rock Creek Recommended Wilderness was part of the original proposed Cloud Peak Wilderness Area in the Bighorn National Forest (BNF) but was removed from congressional recommendation for the Wyoming Wilderness Act of 1984 due to a lease on the land for oil and gas and the potential for water storage. While the lease is no longer current and Rock Creek contains no roads or motorized usage, this pristine area has yet to be given wilderness designation by Congress. Currently, WWA is still working to find a solution to include this area in the National Wilderness Preservation System. WWA continues to take outings and assists in stewardship efforts in this fabulous area to keep the conversation of future designation on the table. For a full update on this long standing campaign or to express your support of Rock Creek being added to the Cloud Peak Wilderness, please contact our Sheridan Office. 307-672-2751
Wyoming Wilderness Association would like to recognize that public wildlands are Native lands, and that more than twenty indigeneous tribes are connected to Wyoming including, the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Lakota, Dakota and Nakota bands), Hinono’ei (Arapaho), Sáhniš (Arikara), Panati (Bannock), Niitsitapi (Blackfeet), Tsistsistas (Cheyenne), Apsaalooké (Crow), A'aninin (Gros Ventre), [Gáuigú (Kiowa), Nimi'ipuu (Nez Perce), Tukudeka (Sheep Eater), Newe (Shoshone) and Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute). These tribes were forcibly and often violently removed from the areas where Wyoming’s public wildlands and communities now exist.
WWA would lastly like to admit that this land acknowledgement, as well as our commitment to engaging Native peoples in our work is far from perfect. We welcome and encourage all feedback and suggestions.