OPINION: Commission Was Right to Recommend Release of WSAs

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Dunes near Sweetwater County's Sand Dunes Wilderness Study Area.
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The following was written and submitted by Brian Parks, President of Sweetwater Snowpokes Snowmobile & ATV Club.

All Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) in Sweetwater County have been managed by the BLM as de facto Wilderness for 40 years. Real ‘Wilderness Area’ designation can only be done by an act of Congress, so our local WSAs clearly are not real Wilderness.

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Sweetwater County’s WSAs were created by the BLM between 1976 and 1980 when their ‘roadless areas’ were ‘inventoried’ for potential ‘wilderness characteristics.’ In 1980 BLM delineated 42 WSAs statewide – 13 which were in Sweetwater County.

The Wyoming Wilderness Act was enacted by Congress in 1984 and set aside several Forest Service areas as real Wilderness.  But notably, the Wyoming Wilderness Act did not include any BLM areas.

Then in 1991, Wyoming BLM recommended to Congress that only about half of its WSA acres should become real Wilderness; but still, even though BLM scaled back its Wilderness area recommendation by half, nothing has happened for 27 years.

The fact of this matter is that nothing has happened, ever, over the 40 years these areas have been ‘studied’ for designation as real Wilderness. They’ve just been kept locked up largely away from public use and benefit.

Consequently, the Sweetwater County Commission was right to recommend that it’s time – past time – that all Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) in Sweetwater County be released from their Wilderness Study Area status.

It’s time that these areas be considered for a broader range of multiple uses, which does not mean they would automatically be opened up for development.

Rather, it would mean they are subject to future land use allocations under the BLM’s Resource Management Plan (RMP) process which could potentially result in various broader uses, as well as continued narrow uses, as the RMP process deems appropriate for each individual area.

We applaud our Commission for its recommendation to release WSAs and look forward to the day these public lands can be used for a broader range of appropriate multiple uses.