public lands

The Bureau of Land Management has presented Congress with a controversial new plan to manage wild horses.

Environmental groups want to stop sheep grazing on public lands in the region. The issue is playing out in the courts in Idaho and Montana.  

U.S. Bureau of Land Management


Since 2010, whenever a parcel of land was nominated to be leased by an oil and gas company, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) went through a significant review period. There were site visits, comments when draft environmental assessments were released, and an additional 30 days of public comment once the sale was live. But Tim Spisak, acting assistant director of energy, minerals, and realty management for the BLM, said all that review wasn’t efficient for energy production.

The Patagonia website recently took another swipe at the Trump administration over its decision to shrink national monuments in Utah. This political activism may be the new norm for the outdoor recreation industry.

Wyoming County Commissioners Association

For 40 years, dozens of wilderness study areas, or WSAs, have been stuck in limbo, waiting for Congress to decide whether they should be given official wilderness status or released for other uses. So, three years ago, the Wyoming County Commissioners Association formed the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative, collaborating with local stakeholders to answer that question.

Following Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke's repeated calls for more management of public lands, this spring the Bureau of Land Management is giving certain ranchers more say and options in grazing their cattle on public lands.


Laramie Range where it borders Medicine Bow National Forest
Robert Kirkwood

Five minutes from downtown Laramie, Melanie Arnett unlocks a gate. She pulls a truck through and we’re inside the 5,500-acre parcel of land that Laramie folks have been drooling to explore for years. I’m feeling pretty smug about my VIP pass.

“Right now, we’re looking right at Pilot Peak,” says Melanie Arnett, who was recently hired to serve as the Pilot Hill Land Project’s director. A local businessman, John Pope with Blue Sky Group, volunteered to pay her salary for now.

Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site

Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site near Worland in the Bighorn Mountains has been occupied by people for over 10,000 years and visitors have long flocked there to see panels of ancient rock art.

Wyoming State Parks administrator Domenic Bravo said traffic has also increased there thanks to staff-led programs, like youth hunting camps and a groomed ice rink.

Credit By Paul Rau and the Bureau of Land Management via CC BY 2.0

About 20 years ago, Wyoming acquired a ranch north of Cody that had briefly been the home of a wanted drug smuggler. Now, there’s debate in Park County about what to do with the property.

The Park County Sheriff and another local complained to the County Commissioners that the Beartooth Ranch near the Clark Fork of the Yellowstone River is an eyesore, full of decrepit buildings and weeds. So, the commissioners decided to write a letter to Governor Matt Mead requesting the right to sell the property.

Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

The Trump administration released its infrastructure plan and proposed budget for 2019. One conservation organization believes it will have brutal impacts on national parks.

President Trump and Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke’s, proposed budget requests a 16 percent cut from the Department of Interior’s 2018 budget. It also prioritizes energy and mineral development on public lands, cuts that Zinke calls unnecessary or duplicated programs, and has language detailing requirements for selling off public lands.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department logo
Wyoming Game and Fish Department

A private ranch has donated enough money to open, or keep open, about 7200 acres of private land around Wyoming for public access to hunting and fishing. The Pathfinder Ranches gave more than $2,250 to Access Yes, a Wyoming Game and Fish Department program. 

Wyoming Outdoor Council

A 14-year veteran of the Wyoming Outdoor Council will take the reins in the coming year. Lisa McGee has worked on decade long projects for the conservation organization that have prevented fracking at the Hoback River and stopped oil and gas leasing within the Wyoming Range. She replaces Gary Wilmot who stepped down in September.

Tom Koerner, USFWS Mountain-Plains

 

Last winter, protestors packed committee meetings after lawmakers proposed a constitutional amendment to allow the state of Wyoming to take over management of federal lands. Republican Senator Larry Hicks supported the idea, but he was open to other options. So, he reached out to Shane Cross and the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and challenged them to come with a compromise.

Amy Sisk/Inside Energy

Wyoming’s Republicans in Washington are hoping to pass broad energy policy in this congressional session after inter-party squabbling in the GOP derailed the effort last year.

In the last Congress, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan energy bill that included Wyoming Senator John Barrasso’s push to expedite the export of Liquefied Natural Gas. That bill garnered support from 85 out of 100 senators but was never sent to the desk of former President Obama. Barrasso was upset that the bill died after negotiations with House Republicans fell apart.

The Department of the Interior is outlining steps aimed at increasing energy production on federal lands. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says boosting production of resources like oil and gas creates jobs and enhances the nation’s energy security.

Jackson Hole’s annual SHIFT Festival kicked off this week with Native American leaders defending Bears Ears National Monument. Each year, SHIFT gathers outdoor enthusiasts from around the nation. This year, Native American leaders took center stage.

Peter Fitzgerald, Wikimedia

A draft of the Interior Department’s five-year strategic plan has been leaked - it was first obtained by The Nation. The 50-page document draws a road map for how the federal agency intends to prioritize energy dominance.

Center for Western Priorities' Scorecard
Center for Western Priorities

The Center for Western Priorities, a Colorado conservation non-profit, has released a scorecard that ranks states based on their policies on public land, outdoor recreation, and energy issues. The group sought to highlight where western states are doing well and where there’s some room for growth.

Public Lands in Wyoming
Bob Wick, BLM / Bureau of Land Management

Representative Liz Cheney is co-sponsoring a proposed bill that would allow states more power over leasing federal lands for energy development. The majority of Wyoming’s oil and gas development occurs on federal land. She said it could help reverse the decline in lease sales.

THEO STEIN / USFWS

According to a federal appeals court, Wyoming’s data-trespass laws are unconstitutional. The two laws made it illegal for people to cross private land in order to collect data or take photos on public land. 

Melanie Arnett

A coalition called Keep It Public is hosting a rally this Saturday in hopes of gaining support for proposed legislation to create a Wyoming Public Lands Day. The holiday would encourage people to celebrate their access to national forests and parks.

Earl DeGroot is a Keep It Public member and an avid snowmobiler, hunter and hiker. He said the first thing the draft bill proposes is to officially designate the last Saturday of September as Public Lands Day.

Wikipedia Commons Tony Webster

Albany County Commissioners will soon decide whether to purchase over 5,000 acres of land just east of Laramie in order to create more public land for recreation while simultaneously protecting the city’s water supply. 

The proposed land purchase from the four private landowners would cost $14 million dollars, and would essentially create a corridor where residents and visitors could bike or hike from Laramie city limits all the way up to Happy Jack Recreational area.

Stephanie Joyce

Newly minted Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke just took a massive step towards streamlining the permitting process for oil and gas drilling on federal lands. Wyoming lawmakers love the move, but Democrats fear it’s a dangerous first step down a slippery slope.   

Public Lands in Wyoming
Bob Wick, BLM / Bureau of Land Management

Environmental groups filed a brief in federal court last Friday to halt oil and gas leasing on select public lands in Wyoming. They say development on that public land should stop there until the amount of greenhouse gases and their effect on the climate are fully understood.   

United States Department of the Interior

The Department of Interior is facing budget cuts of $1.6 billion. A summary of the proposed budget shows reductions in wildlife management while boosting funds for oil and gas development. Conservationists say this will have an effect here in Wyoming.

The proposed budget would reduce funding for endangered species, fisheries and wildlife management including almost $30 million less for sage grouse protection. It would also increase funds for programs ensuring oil and gas management while reducing permitting fees.

The Bureau of Land Management

Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on whether to scrap a Bureau of Land Management plan, known as the BLM Planning 2.0, that was recently adopted under the Obama administration.

Bureau of Land Management, Wikimedia Commons

A new public land transfer bill was filed this week by House Majority Floor Leader David Miller. The bill would allow the state to take over management of federal lands, and comes hard on the heels of a recently failed constitutional amendment that would also have given the state control over federal lands, an idea that’s been opposed by many sporting and outdoor recreation groups.

TYRA OLSTAD- Fossil Butte National Monument

A controversial constitutional amendment that would have allowed the state to take over management of federal lands was killed late Friday afternoon by legislators who realized they did not have enough votes to pass it. 

The Select Committee on Federal Natural Resources said they drafted the proposed amendment as a way to protect public access to federal lands. House Majority Floor Leader David Miller said legal actions by other states could force Wyoming to take over public lands.

Melodie Edwards

A bill drafted for the legislature that proposed to revise Wyoming's constitution to allow the state to take over management of federal lands, has died. The idea was intensely controversial and today Senator Eli Bebout withdrew the legislation. 

Droves of hunters, anglers and hikers turned out for anti-land transfer rallies in recent months wearing stickers that read, “Keep It Public, Wyoming!” 

Bureau of Land Management

On Monday night, about 20 legislators met with the Wyoming Wildlife Federation to discuss an alternative to a proposed public land transfer bill. The amendment is scheduled for introduction at the legislature and would allow the state to take over federal land management from agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

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