Read Up. Get Out.
Looking to get informed about all things public wildlands? Start here for key resources to become an educated public land owner and start making your voice heard on important decisions made by the federal agencies that manage those lands.
External Learning Links
WYOMING PUBLIC LANDS HANDBOOK
Spearheaded by the Wyoming County Commissioners Association the handbook "serves as a guide for Wyoming county commissioners on Wyoming’s public lands and the laws and policies that govern their management. It also provides best practices for Wyoming county commissioners interested in participating in the management of public lands, including an explanation of cooperating agencies and coordination and how best to develop and maintain relationships with federal land managers."
The Mountain Neighbor Handbook
Our own BT & Tribal Engagement Coordinator, Carlie Ideker, was one of 40+ contributors to The Mountain Neighbor Handbook: A Local’s Guide to Stewardship in the Tetons compiled this new resource as an introduction and an invitation to environmental stewardship. Chapters focused on everything from wildlife and habitat to energy and waste help readers navigate the realities of living in this wild place. Led by Teton Conservation District, Teton County, Town of Jackson, and the Jackson Hole Land Trust.
Wyoming Travel & Tourism has put together a great resource for getting out in Wyoming in a responsible way. The tips are sourced " with insights from the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming Game & Fish, Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources, Wyoming Office of Outdoor Recreation, Wyoming State Forestry Division, Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments, Wyoming Business Council and Wyoming Department of Transportation."
Wilderness: What To Know Before You Go
Put together by the USDA National Forest Service, this "quick start" guide to Wilderness is an essential trip-planning resource. "Wilderness is the wildest of the wild", so the key to a safe, fun, and successful trip is to be prepared. Note that this graphic informational sheet contains general information about Wilderness regulations and preparedness, contact your local Federal management office for location-specific information
Outdoor Citizens’ Guide To Forest Planning
Put together by the Outdoor Alliance, the Citizens' Guide To Forest Planning was created "to help you understand the forest-plan revision process and your opportunities for working with the Forest Service to help shape the future of the forests where you recreate." "Forest Planning creates the blueprint for how each National Forest is managed. It’s a once-in-a-generation chance to impact your outdoor experiences on National Forests around the country, and the Forest Service needs feedback and input from outdoor enthusiasts when they are building forest plans."
A Citizen Guide To The Wyoming Legislature
This helpful guide is a great resource for understanding the inner-workings of the Wyoming Legislature at state capitol. Put together by the Wyoming Legislature, the guide will give you all the information you need to understand the structure, key players, and processes that are at play when the legislature is in session and deliberating on proposed bills. There is also valuable information for those planning to visit the capitol and be involved.
How A Bill Becomes A Law - WY Legislature
If you are wanting to get involved with advocacy, understanding the legislative process is imperative so you know how and when to engage with your Wyoming Senators and Representatives. The Wyoming Women's Foundation put together a great graphic for visualizing the process. If you are interested in what we advocate for, you can check out out 'Campaigns' page or contact our Policy Coordinator, Sarah Walker: email@example.com
A Citizen's Guide To The NEPA: Having Your Voice Heard
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. "This guide provides an explanation of NEPA, how it is implemented, and how people outside the Federal Government—individual citizens, private sector applicants, members of organized groups, and representatives of Tribal, State, or local government agencies—can participate in the assessment."
Terms and Definitions
ACEC: Areas of Critical Environmental Concern.
Designated BLM "areas where special management attention is needed to protect important historical, cultural, and scenic values, or fish and wildlife or other natural resources. ACECs can also be designated to protect human life and safety from natural hazards." ⁽ ¹ ⁾
Administrative Protections: Public land protections achieved through federal agency planning processes and
the NEPA public comment process. Resource Management Plans for the BLM and Forest Plans for our national forests can protect areas in a variety of ways, such as ACECs, backcountry non-motorized areas, or confirming legislative designations. Administrative protections are more easily achieved through effective public comment processes compared to legislative actions, but administrative protections are less permanent, less clear, and less legally binding than legislative protections like designated Wilderness.
BLM: Bureau of Land Management
Federal agency established in 1964 and tasked "with a mandate of managing public lands for a variety of uses such as energy development, livestock grazing, recreation, and timber harvesting while ensuring natural, cultural, and historic resources are maintained for present and future use." ⁽ ⁶ ⁾
EA: Environmental Assessment
"A comprehensive study that identifies environmental impacts of a land development action and analyzes a broad set of parameters including biodiversity, environmental justice, wetlands, air and water pollution, traffic, geotechnical risks, public safety issues and also hazardous substance issues." ⁽ ² ⁾
EIS: Environmental Impact Statement
"A comprehensive document that analyzes the impacts of a federal action that will have a significant effect on the human environment." ⁽ ³ ⁾
"Generally provides that any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information except to the extent the records are protected from disclosure by any of nine exemptions contained in the law or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions." ⁽ ¹⁶ ⁾
Forest Plan: Officially called a Land Management Plan, these plans are required by the National Forest
Management Act of 1976 and the process currently followed for plan revision is outlined by the 2012 Planning Rule. This process was intended to occur every 15 years in order to ensure management is relevant and timely. A Forest Plan starts with assessing what is currently happening to inform what direction to take. Then a plan is developed and a draft with multiple alternatives is released and the public is able to comment. A revision is released and the public is able to comment again. This feedback is then used to draft a final revision.
IRA: Inventoried Roadless Areas
"Undeveloped areas typically exceeding 5,000 acres that met the minimum criteria for wilderness consideration under the Wilderness Act and that were inventoried during the Forest Service’s Roadless Area Review and Evaluation (RARE II) process, subsequent assessments, or forest planning," in accordance with the Roadless Area Conservation Final Rule. This term is no longer used when considering areas for wilderness recommendation, instead, they are called 'Potential Wilderness Areas'. ⁽ ¹³ ⁾
LWC's: Land with Wilderness Characteristics
Lands that "possess sufficient size, naturalness, and outstanding opportunities for either solitude or primitive and unconfined recreation." ⁽ ¹⁴ ⁾
Legislative Protections: Public land protections requiring congressional action, like designated Wilderness.
NEPA: National Environmental Policy Act
"Requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions." ⁽ ⁷ ⁾
NWPS: National Wilderness Preservation System
Established by the Wilderness Act of 1964, is a system of our wildest landscapes with the highest forms of government protections. The NWPS includes more than 111 million acres of protected wilderness areas that are managed by the National Parks Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.
Potential Wilderness Areas: "Areas identified and evaluated during the development or revision of Forest Plans
for administrative recommendation to Congress for wilderness designation." ⁽ ¹³ ⁾
See also 'Inventoried Roadless Areas'
Red Desert: Located in Southwest Wyoming, approximately half a million acres of high-altitude desert. It is the
largest unfenced area in the continental United States, filled with sand dunes, badlands, canyons, contiguous wildlands, and Indigenous cultural history. It is "the only place where the Continental Divide splits and rejoins, forming an enormous basin where water collects rather than flowing into the Pacific or Atlantic oceans. The world's largest herd of desert elk can be found here, along with wagon ruts etched by pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail, and prehistoric rock art and Shoshone spiritual sites." ⁽ ⁹ ⁾
RMP: Resource Management Plan
RMP's serve as land management blueprints for the BLM to "more readily address resource issues at a variety of scales, such as wildfire, wildlife habitat, appropriate development, or the demand for renewable and non-renewable energy sources, and to respond more effectively to change." ⁽ ¹⁰ ⁾ The planning process says what can happen and where, and provide the overarching guidance for public land management in place for several decades. Other proposed projects and planning processes, like Travel Planning, say what will happen.
TEK: Traditional Ecological Knowledge or Indigenous Knowledge
Encompasses the landscape, environment, wildlife, water, and material cultural items in conjunction with oral histories passed down from Tribal ancestors. TEK or Indigenous Knowledge are living, place-based information and knowledge systems held by Tribes and Indigenous Peoples containing over thousands of years of observations and understanding. These expansive knowledge systems continue to develop through ongoing, direct interactions and long-lived experiences with the environment, and include skills, traditions, lessons, beliefs, oral and written history, and innovations passed down generationally. ⁽ ¹⁵ ⁾
Travel Plan: Travel management planning for public lands is generally described as the process of designating
a sustainable system of roads, trails, and areas that are open for motor vehicle use. Resource Management Plans (RMPs, for the BLM) and Forest Land Management Plans (LMPs, for USFS) identify what uses are allowed where, including motorized and recreational vehicles. These guiding plans say what can happen on our public lands, but travel management planning determines what will happen. Learn More
Wilderness: (Map) Established in the Wilderness Act of 1964 and "recognized as an area where the earth and its
community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain...an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions..." ⁽ ⁵ ⁾
Wilderness Act of 1964: The "Wilderness Act" was signed into law on Sept. 3, 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
It "created the National Wilderness Preservation System and immediately placed 54 areas into the system. Those areas included 9.1 million acres in 13 states, including some of our most iconic wilderness areas:
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota
Bridger Wilderness, Wyoming
Teton Wilderness, Wyoming
Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana" ⁽ ⁸ ⁾
with "wilderness characteristics" are considered wildlands. ⁽ ¹² ⁾
WSA: Wilderness Study Area (Map)
WPLI: Wyoming Public Lands Initiative
In 2015 the Wyoming County Commissioners Association launched the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative (WPLI) to address the state's Wilderness Study Areas through county-led collaboratives. Through a majority-vote process that does not fully represent the Wyoming public, lacked support from many committee members, and failed to consult with tribal governments, the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative Act (WPLIA, S. 1750) was introduced by Senator Barrasso in Spring 2021, which would only designate 10% of current WSA's as Wilderness, while releasing 77% to various multiple-use management. This flawed decision process and net loss of wildlands is not supported by the Wyoming Wilderness Association. Read More
Wyoming Wilderness Act of 1984: Sponsored by Representative Malcolm Wallop [R-WY] and Dick Cheney [R-
WY], permanently protected 1.1 million acres of ecologically diverse, wild landscapes in Wyoming by adding them to the National Wilderness Preservation System. These included:
(1) the Cloud Peak Wilderness in the Bighorn National Forest;
(2) the Popo Agie Wilderness in the Shoshone National Forest;
(3) the Gros Ventre Wilderness in the Bridger-Teton National Forest;
(4) the Winegar Hole Wilderness in the Bridger-Teton National Forest;
(5) Jedediah Smith Wilderness in the Targhee National Forest;
(6) the Huston Park Wilderness in the Medicine Bow National Forest;
(7) the Encampment River Wilderness Area in the Medicine Bow National Forest;
(10) the Silver Creek Addition to the Bridger Wilderness and the Newfork Lake Addition to the Bridger Wilderness in the Bridger-Teton National Forest;
(11) the Glacier Addition to the Fitzpatrick Wilderness in the Shoshones National Forest;
(12) the South Fork Addition to the Washakie Wilderness in the Shoshone National Forest;
(13) the High Lakes Addition to the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in the Shoshone National Forest.
How is wilderness established?Designated wilderness is carved out of federal public lands already set aside as national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and lands managed by the BLM. It is created by specific acts of Congress designating particular areas as wilderness. Today, there are more than 109 million acres of wilderness protected in America’s national forests, wildlife refuges, parks, and BLM lands. The largest amount of designated wilderness is in Alaska.
Why is wilderness important?Wilderness areas are important because they provide long-term protection to the last of our nation’s wild landscapes — places that possess spectacular beauty, offer outstanding solitude, support native plants and animals, protect valuable water resources, shelter ancient cultural artifacts, provide opportunities for primitive recreation, and maintain resiliency in the face of global climate change.
Where did the idea of wilderness come from?There is a long history of the land protection ethic in America. In 1864, Congress set aside land in Yosemite that would later become Yosemite National Park. In 1872, Yellowstone was made the first national park. The first bill to create a National Wilderness Preservation System was introduced in 1956. The 1964 Wilderness Act took eight years, eighteen hearings, and sixty-six revisions to become law.
How “natural” must the land be to qualify as wilderness?An area is considered to be natural if the imprints of human intrusion are “substantially unnoticeable.” The Wilderness Act specifically permits trails, bridges, fire towers, pit toilets, fire rings, fish habitat enhancement facilities, fencing, and research monitoring devices. Other human impacts are permitted in Wilderness areas, so long as their overall impact is substantially unnoticeable. Sights and sounds of activities occurring outside an area are not considered when assessing naturalness, even if these activities are quite prominent.
What activities are allowed in a wilderness area?Non-motorized recreation including horseback riding, non-commercial herb gathering, hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting are allowed. Agencies may maintain and construct trails in wilderness. The use of wheelchairs, including motorized wheelchairs, is permitted in wilderness areas when the wheelchair is a medical necessity. Grazing is allowed to continue at levels consistent with sound resource management if it existed prior to the designation of the area as a wilderness.
What activities are not allowed in wilderness?The Wilderness Act prohibits such activities as mining, chaining, water development, and timber harvest (although mining may occur where there is a valid pre-existing right to mine). The Wilderness Act also prohibits use of motorized vehicles in wilderness except under emergency circumstances. This means that chain saws, trucks, cars, bulldozers, off-road vehicles, helicopters, and other motorized equipment cannot be used within wilderness areas. Mountain bikes are not permitted in wilderness areas.
What’s the difference between a wilderness and a National Park?Wilderness areas are defined as roadless areas on public lands that have been designated by Congress to be preserved in a primitive condition. Parts of many national parks are also preserved in a largely natural condition in which roads, mechanical devices and permanent structures are not allowed. However, national parks can also include developed, roaded areas. With few exceptions, grazing and hunting are not allowed in parks, whereas they are allowed in wilderness areas.
Why not use some other form of protection for wilderness?A wilderness area is protected by law (the 1964 Wilderness Act) and the status can only be changed by an act of Congress. Congress has carefully defined wilderness, established a uniform national system of wilderness, and given clear guidance as to how wilderness must be managed. Other designations such as “primitive areas” provide temporary protection, but the protection can be modified or removed by the signature of an appointed administrative official. Similarly, conservation areas and recreation areas lack the statutory foundation of the Wilderness Act to guide their permanence and integrity.
Will roads be closed by wilderness designation?Only areas which are currently roadless and undeveloped qualify for wilderness designation. Areas with constructed, regularly maintained roads do not qualify for wilderness.
What about private and state land in proposed wilderness areas?Reasonable access to state lands and private property, by such means as motorized vehicles, is allowed within wilderness, but the land management agency generally attempts to acquire these inholdings on a willing-seller basis.