Wyo4News Op-Ed: Greater Little Mountain Coalition on BLM’s revision of land use plan

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Views expressed within this Wyo4News Op-Ed are not necessarily those of Wyo4News ownership, the management, or its sponsors. Wyo4News management reserves the right to make space available for responsible, dissenting opinion.

It has been a decade since the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) initiated the revision of their land use plan for the Rock Springs region and the plan is still years away from completion. This plan will guide all decisions for the 3.6 millions of acres of public land managed by the local BLM field office pertaining to recreation, wildlife habitat, energy development, grazing, and many other land uses. This plan will also guide decisions for the Greater Little Mountain area – a place loved by hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreationists.

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We, the Greater Little Mountain Coalition, came together to ensure that this special corner of Wyoming is managed in a way that maintains its incredible open space and wildlife while supporting responsible energy development. Our Coalition has been heavily engaged in the BLM’s process because the resulting plan will have lasting implications for decades to come.

We ask that the BLM prioritize the completion of their plan as soon as possible, and include our locally-driven proposal for management in the Greater Little Mountain area. Updating this land use plan will ensure that management decisions are being made with current information – and it should reflect community values that balance conservation of our wildlife habitats with development.

The current plan overseeing the Rock Springs BLM field office is old, signed in 1997 and we’ve witnessed the consequences of decisions being made under the outdated plan. One example is the poorly sited Sweetwater solar project that forced a thousand antelope onto the highway during deep snows – resulting in stress and death to antelope – and a safety hazard to motorists. To compound matters, now there is a proposal for another solar project in the same area along Hwy 372 – being evaluated under the same outdated plan.

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We are optimistic the BLM could issue a revised plan that protects critical fish and wildlife habitat while providing for economic opportunities throughout the planning area without having to start from square one. The BLM is well positioned to move forward with the current alternatives and analysis already completed.

The Greater Little Mountain area is considered the crown jewel of southwestern Wyoming. That’s why our Coalition’s balanced proposal to the BLM has received broad support from our members and local, county, and state government. We encourage them to demonstrate that they have listened to local stakeholders by incorporating our recommendations into the preferred alternative of the plan when they release the draft plan.

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The BLM initiated the revision of their plan in 2011 – when most people were still getting DVDs mailed from Netflix. So yes, it’s been a while since the BLM started their revision process. We appreciate the work that local BLM staff and others have done to get us to where we are today, and we believe it is time to wrap this planning process up and get it over the finish line as expeditiously as possible.

Sincerely,

The Greater Little Mountain Coalition

Coalition Leaders include: Nick Dobric – Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Monte Morlock – United Steelworkers Local 13214, Steve Martin – Bowhunters of Wyoming, Josh Coursey – Muley Fanatic Foundation, Liz Rose – Trout Unlimited, Craig Thompson – Landowner, Joy Bannon – Wyoming Wildlife Federation)

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