- JJ McGinnis
Red Desert Update
WWA is participating in the Lander Community Foundation's Challenge for Charities, Help us continue our work to preserve and protect Wyoming public wildlands. Between May 1 and July 10, every dollar given to WWA will be matched up by the Lander Community Foundation and their awesome list of co-challengers. Read our latest update from our BLM Wildlands Manager, Matt Cuzzocreo on our work in Lander and the Red Desert.
As the snow line creeps up in elevation, streams and rivers flow dirty with runoff, and grasses and forbs break through spring-scented soils, the season’s change is upon Wyoming. Perhaps nowhere is the spring more fleeting and cherished than in the desert. Ephemeral pools teem with insects, briefly blooming wildflowers carpet the ground, song birds sing, sage grouse dance, and ungulates begin their journeys from winter to summer ranges. For people eager to explore the desert after a winter locked out by drifted snow or impassable mud, the most awaited and observable change is the drying of the roads and two tracks which offer access to wagon ruts and game trails leading deep into the desert’s interior. In anticipation of busy spring, summer and fall seasons embarking deep into the Red Desert, it is instructive to report on our “indoor season,” and how that will translate into the year to come. Our Red Desert work is again focused on two separate but complementary campaigns; the Citizens for the Red Desert congressional legislative effort, and active advocacy for conservation in the upcoming revision to the Rock Springs Resource Management Plan.
Since the Biden administration has taken over leadership of the Bureau of Land Management, the Rock Springs RMP draft release continues to be delayed as the agency works to align the plan with the administration’s updated priorities for the public land management – specifically the much publicized “30 by 30” commitment to protecting 30% of U.S. land and water by 2030. While the delay of the draft remains frustrating, it has brought about an unforeseen benefit. WWA and partners were able to meet with the newly appointed Wyoming BLM State Director about our priorities for the plan. This meeting resulted in an invitation from the Director to submit nominations for new Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) in the draft. Our coalition is now actively working to analyze and report on the most appropriate areas for ACEC designation. Acceptance of any of these nominations would lead to long-lasting administrative protections in the new RMP.
While protections secured through the BLM planning process would be long lasting, these would not be permanent. Congressional legislation defining acceptable uses on the landscape, however, would be. The Citizens for the Red Desert group has been making steady headway in our legislative campaign. In March of this year, we held a facilitated planning meeting with members of the Wyoming conservation community to pin down the interests and values that we would like to see represented in the bill. As we build support for the legislative process, we will hold meetings with non-traditional allies to include their interests in the bill as well. Our intent is to draft Congressional legislation that is broadly supported by Wyoming groups and citizens that cherish the desert and want the future of this place protected by the spring of 2023. Between now and then, both WWA and the Citizens for the Red Desert group will be hosting tours, outings, meetings and presentations to share our vision of the legislative process and wild Wyoming landscape we aim to secure. For questions on either of these efforts, or information on how you can help, reach out to Matt at email@example.com.