GREEN RIVER — Community members discussed the BLM Draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the Rock Springs Field Office during The Greater Little Mountain Coalition (GLMC) BBQ last Thursday evening. The gathering took place at the Muley Fanatic Foundation (MFF) headquarters in Green River.
MFF President/CEO Joshua Coursey told SweetwaterNOW that while the land managed by the Rock Springs Field Office is over 3.6 million acres, the GLMC is concerned with the Greater Little Mountain area. The coalition has been involved in the draft RMP process for over a decade, and submitted recommendations for the Little Mountain area that was supported by the governments at every level in Wyoming.
“The proposal that we submitted had the support of all the municipalities, the county government, and three governors because this has been a long process,” Coursey said. Gov. Mark Gordon was planning to be at the gathering but couldn’t make it because the plane he travels on was being repaired. He sent a letter in his stead, stating, “I think it is vital that you all know the importance of this group in present and future land management decisions in Southwest Wyoming. The folks here today are, quite literally, the boots on the ground.”
Coursey said that since the draft RMP was released to the public, some people have gotten the idea that Muley Fanatics and the GLMC are supporting Alternative B, the BLM’s preferred alternative, for the RMP. This alternative is widely viewed as a restrictive and extreme management plan focused on conservation. Alternative A keeps management as it currently is, Alternative C has almost no restrictions and conservation, and Alternative D aims to strike a balance between development, use and conservation.
Coursey said it is a travesty that people have gotten the idea that MFF and GLMC support Alternative B, as nothing in their proposal for the RMP is acknowledged in the alternative. The GLMC recommended management is defined using six specific areas including Currant Creek, Sage Creek, Sugarloaf Basin, Pine Mountain, Salt Wells and Red Creek.
For the Sugarloaf Basin area, Coursey said the coalition’s recommended management was to upgrade wind and solar right of way stipulations from avoidance to exclusion, which is included in Alternative D, and upgrade oil and gas stipulation to no surface occupancy due to sensitive soils, which is included in Alternative A.
Alternative A also incudes the recommended management for Currant Creek and Salt Wells, which would maintain current management prescriptions. The GLMC recommended applying the current Red Creek area management prescriptions to Sage Creek. Additionally, they wanted no surface occupancy for oil and gas development, and right of way exclusion for win and solar development, which is included in Alternative D.
“We don’t want to see wind turbines on Miller Mountain,” Coursey said.
Meanwhile, the coalition’s recommendations for Pine Mountain are not represented in any of the alternatives. The GLMC wanted to add controlled surface use to 2,513 acres and no surface occupancy to 14,982 acres.
“We had nothing that supported Alternative B, so wherever that information is coming from I think is a travesty,” Coursey said. “People right now are allowing division to tear us apart instead of finding the common ground that we can unite on.”
In discussions with the BLM this month, Coursey said that he was told the RMP will not do three things: wild horse management, sage grouse management and travel management. This means that the BLM will not be restricting access to roads, despite the draft mistakenly suggesting that some vehicle routes would be closed. Coursey said that though this was a mistake in the draft, he believes people should still express their opposition when commenting on the draft RMP.
“I would recommend people that when they comment, comment their opposition to [travel management] because taking the government at their word … the trust is broken,” he said.
Additionally, he said that it is important that the community understand that they are not voting on a single alternative. The final RMP can take pieces from each alternative, as well as management recommendations that are not included in the alternatives.
“The BLM told me they received 1,138 emails where people have voted for an alphabet letter: A, B, C, or D. This isn’t a vote, this isn’t about an alternative that you like, there’s no one size fits all. You have to provide substantive comments about things that are in the draft,” he said. “There is no alternative to advocate for, what we’re advocating for is land management at the landscape level.”
Coursey said that is is important for people who know this land to comment, as these are public lands which means they belong to all Americans, and therefore anyone can comment whether they know the area or not.
“I know of one organization that is headquartered back east, and they have sent this out to their 300,00 members to weigh in. They don’t know this land. I feel like they’re just trying to stack the deck for their agenda and that is very concerning to me because we live here,” Coursey said. “You’ve got to have the recognition of what this landscape means for the employment and the economy of our communities.”
In his letter, Governor Gordon echoed this concern of agendas from the east influencing Wyoming lands.
“The Rock Springs RMP has indicated a change in precedent stemming from top-down edicts coming from out east, instead of cooperatively developed and locally cultivated solutions,” he said in the letter. “… The haphazard proposals in the preferred alternative drown out the quality efforts put into areas like the Greater Little Mountain and would significantly impact Southwest Wyoming.”