BLM

Maggie Mullen

 

It’s an unseasonably warm November day in Wyoming, and a small group of Bureau of Land Management employees is out in the Checkerboard, just east of Rock Springs. Like a lot of Wyoming, it’s arid with wide open spaces. They’re looking for wild horses. Leading the way is Jay D’Ewart, who works with wild horses for the Rock Springs field office.

“Besides the paperwork,” says D’Ewart. “I’m the eyes and ears for the wild horses out here on the range.”

Melodie Edwards

The idea of turning public lands over to the state has raised the hackles of a very diverse group of people. At a recent anti-land transfer rally in Casper, hundreds of hunters and outfitters crowded together with environmentalists and bird watchers. Then on Wednesday, people turned out in droves at a Federal Natural Resources Management Committee meeting in Riverton too.

“They kept bringing in chairs,” said Dan Smitherman, the Wyoming representative for the Wilderness Society. “In fact, there was still standing room only when they got down to business.”

Wyoming’s first utility-scale solar farm is being proposed in Sweetwater County. 

Wyoming currently has less than 2 megawatts of installed solar in the entire state. If built, the Sweetwater project would be 80 megawatts—enough to power roughly 24,000 homes.

Wikimedia Commons

The Bureau of Land Management announced it will not accept the recommendation from their National Advisory Board to euthanize the upwards of 46,000 wild horses. The recommendation was followed by a major public outrage, but the BLM says they will continue to seek out other management options.

Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Kristen Lenhardt said those alternatives include the BLM’s already established wild horse and burro adoption program, as well as using birth control to reduce overpopulation.

Public Domain

On Monday, arguments were presented against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's removal of wild horses from a herd of management area in what's known as the Checkerboard area near Rock Springs.

Wild horse advocate groups argue that the removal of horses is conducted inhumanely and is expensive for tax payers, and that wild horses have the right to roam on public land. American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign Director Suzanne Roy says she hopes the court appeal will stop the roundup, and soon.

In a new report, the Government Accountability Office criticizes public lands agencies for poor management of grazing permits. The watchdog says conflicts and armed standoffs over grazing rights, like the one in 2014 in Nevada, would be less likely if public land agencies improved their permit tracking methods.

NBC News / via Twitchy

The recent use of the acronym BLM in national conversation has left some Westerners confused. 

At this week’s Democratic National Convention, the Wyoming delegation wore t-shirts supporting Black Lives Matter, or in shorthand, BLM. Nina McConigley is a writer who lives Laramie. She posted about the show of support on her Facebook page, writing "Wyoming delegation - all wearing BLM shirts! As a POC [Person of Color] in Wyo, this makes me so so happy." She says that elicited a lot of confused comments in response. 

BLM Wyoming

New fire restrictions for public lands in Sheridan, Johnson, and Campbell counties will go into effect Friday. Those counties been dry and hot in recent weeks, and lightning strikes have caused two fires in the area.

The new Bureau of Land Management restrictions will prohibit things like building fires outside of designated fire grates and smoking on public lands. 

The Bureau of Land Management

 

Regulators heard from all sorts of people, from firefighters to business owners to coal miners, at a meeting in Grand Junction, CO today on potential reforms to the federal coal program. 

American taxpayers are receiving less than they should from the sale of publicly-owned coal according to a report released by the White House today.

When coal companies mine federal coal, they pay a fee on each ton, a royalty payment. 

Wikimedia Commons

Officials are gaining control of Wyoming’s largest wildfire this year. A 225-acre is about 90 percent under control as of Wednesday while two out of three smaller fires have been put out near the town of Ten Sleep. Bureau of Land Management officials expect all fires to be extinguished by Wednesday.

Bureau of Land Management Worland Field Office Manager Rance Neighbors said they weren’t expecting significant wildfires this early.

The Bureau of Land Management

Coal miners, state lawmakers, environmentalists and land advocates all came together in Casper today to weigh in on coal. 

Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

A federal judge in Wyoming has temporarily blocked implementation of new rules governing fracking on federal lands.

The new rules would require the disclosure of fracking chemicals and more mechanical integrity testing for wells, among other things. But U.S. District Court judge Scott Skavdahl argues in the injunction that federal agencies cannot regulate fracking.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

 

 

People from all over the state met in Gillette last week to comment on the Bureau of Land Management's controversial proposal to update the federal coal program. 

Groups Worry About BLM Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Plan

Jun 19, 2015
Willow Belden

  

Protestors say the BLM office in Montana is trying to wipe out the state’s last herd of wild horses. That herd lives in the Pryor Mountains in Montana and Wyoming. The group marched into the Billings Field office recently, demanding the agency abandon plans to round up horses and use birth control on the mares.

Bob Beck

Secretary of Interior Sally Jewel came to Cheyenne to announce a massive plan to conserve Sage Grouse habitat in several western states. Wyoming started its own conservation efforts in 2007 and Jewel says it is a model state. The question is whether the federal efforts can keep the Sage Grouse from being placed on the endangered species list. 

Photo by Wendy Shattil/Bob Rozinksi under Creative Commons licensing

On Friday, two groups of oil and gas producers, the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance, filed an injunction in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming against the first-ever federal rule to regulate hydraulic fracturing.  

Jeannie Stafford/USFWS & US Energy Dept

A chicken-sized game bird native to western sagebrush has become the subject of the biggest conservation project in U.S. history.

Efforts to keep the greater sage grouse off the endangered species list stretch across 11 states from North Dakota to California. It is a complex balancing act between saving critical ecosystems while at the same time protecting the region’s key industries.

The U.S. tenth circuit court of appeals has overruled wild horse advocates and will allow the roundup of nearly 800 wild horses in southwest Wyoming. The Bureau of Land Management will round up the horses in an area where private, state, and federal lands intermingle. 

The Rock Springs grazing association had demanded the roundup because they say the horses are depleting resources from other wildlife and livestock in the area. 

commons.wikimedia.org

The clock is ticking about whether to list the greater sage grouse as an endangered species.  Such a listing could all but shut down mineral development in the bird’s habitat.  The state has already tackled sage grouse protections.  Now it’s the federal government’s turn.  It’s been 30 years since the Lander Resource Management Plan was revised.  And so the Bureau of Land Management took the opportunity to put more protections in place for the grouse while they were at it. 

The Lander Resource Management Plan is hundreds of pages and covers a lot of ground. 

A mule deer migration route between the Red Desert and Hoback may present unique challenges to agencies and landowners.

The route is used twice a year by up to 5-thousand migrating deer. Hall Sawyer, a research biologist with Western Ecosystem Technologies says the discovery is a big one.

Wikipedia

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a new plan for land use in the Wind River Basin today/Thursday, which supporters say balances the needs of industry, conservation, and recreation.

The new Resource Management Plan is the result of a cooperative process involving federal, state, and local agencies as well as land owners and recreation enthusiasts.

Wyoming representative for The Wilderness Society, Dan Smitherman, says that the plan’s release does not mean that the conversation about how best to use these lands is over.

A 5000-well oil and gas project proposed for the Powder River Basin is drawing sharp criticism from a wildlife advocacy group.  Erik Molvar with WildEarth Guardians says the drilling would take place right in the middle of critical sage grouse habitat.

“Well, the 5000 wells are projected in an area of over a million acres to the north of Douglas, stretching all the way up in the Thunder Basin National Grassland and including several core areas that have been proposed priority habitat for sage grouse,” Molvar says.

The newly discovered abundance of domestic oil and gas is creating a shortage of something else: the petroleum engineers who regulate drilling activities. Government petroleum engineers approve companies’ drilling plans and inspect wells after they’re completed to make sure they’re not at risk of contaminating water or blowing out, but as Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, there just aren’t enough petroleum engineers to go around.  

Joe Kiesecker

The Bureau of Land Management is considering protecting some areas in the Red Desert because of their scenic qualities.

The agency’s Sheila Lehman says they’re considering amending the Rawlins Resource Management Plan, to limit development on parcels of land with important wilderness characteristics.

“There’s the potential to maybe be able to preserve it a little bit more, or by mitigating certain things to keep that quality – that wilderness quality,” Lehman said.

Environmental groups are pleased.

The Bureau of Land Management is asking for nearly $3 million to spend on research into birth control for wild horses.

Population growth has made it difficult to manage wild horses, and currently the agency removes horses from public lands in order to maintain an adequate population.

A study by the National Research Council last year concluded that the current practice is flawed, and that the BLM should use birth control instead. But BLM spokesman Tom Gorey says the agency isn’t happy with the drug that’s available.

The U.S. Forest Service is analyzing how additional oil and gas development would affect a 44,000-acre parcel of land in the Wyoming Range. The study will help the agency decide whether to allow energy leasing in the area.

The Petroleum Association of Wyoming says that because it’s multiple use land, the Forest Service should continue to allow oil and gas development. But Steve Kilpatrick with the Wyoming Wildlife Federation says new development in the Wyoming Range would harm important wildlife habitat.

Joe Riis

Wyoming has some of the longest wildlife migration routes in the U.S. Animals travel in some cases over 100 miles from summer ranges to winter habitats. Protecting the migration routes is important for maintaining healthy populations. But land managers and other decision makers often don’t actually know where the animals travel. Now, scientists are tracking their routes. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

(Sound of deer walking along streambed)

Coal sales in western states are under increased scrutiny from lawmakers after revelations of problems including reserves of the fuel sold at prices below market value.

A letter from the U.S. Department of Interior Inspector General released Friday shows federal officials in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico accepted below-market bids for coal or sold the fuel without full appraisals.

Inspectors said that violated federal rules including the 1920 Mineral Leasing Act, which requires coal sales to be competitive.

Willow Belden

The Bureau of Land Management says educating the public is a key reason they’re proposing a wild horse sanctuary near Lander. It would be the second sanctuary of its kind in Wyoming.

The BLM regularly removes wild horses from public lands in the western U.S. and often, the animals are shipped to long-term pastures in the Midwest. But the BLM’s Scott Fluer says keeping them closer to home has some advantages.

“This would allow the public to be able to come out and take a look at these horses and be able to see them in more of a natural environment,” Fluer said.

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