This opinion piece was written and submitted by Josh Coursey, President/CEO, Muley Fanatic Foundation.
This August marks three years since 173,000 acres of oil and gas leases were deferred in the Greater Little Mountain area of Southwest Wyoming. This was a huge win for hunters and anglers like myself who cherish this landscape and the ability to hunt and fish in our own backyards. Energy development has always been a cornerstone of Wyoming’s economy, but the Greater Little Mountain Area is one place where everyone can agree that large-scale development simply does not belong.
From the desert floors to the high mountain peaks, this one of a kind landscape is full of sensitive fish and wildlife habitat, making it a paradise for sportsmen and women. It provides critical habitat that supports herds of mule deer, elk and antelope, as well as creeks that are home to Colorado River Cutthroat trout.
The decision to defer leasing honored years of input from Wyoming’s Governors, the Sweetwater County Commision, conservation groups, and others. And I hope that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will once again honor local input in its new draft management plan for Greater Little Mountain that will determine which resources in the area will remain protected, and which will be designated for other uses such as energy development. Countless sportsmen, miners, ranchers, business owners, local elected officials, landowners and community leaders have spent the last decade fighting to protect this landscape from irresponsible development and we even drafted our own plan for how this area’s fish and wildlife resources should be managed and protected.
As hunting season approaches, I’m excited to once again experience all that Greater Little Mountain has to offer. But it’s also a reminder that our work is not yet finished. It’s important that BLM finalize a resource management plan that conserves this area’s fish and wildlife resources for the benefit of future generations. This plan should also serve to protect the area’s economy by boosting outdoor recreation opportunities that support our local economies and provide employment opportunities for local residents.
Honoring years of hard-work from local stakeholders will help the Department of the Interior to protect Little Mountain’s wildlife and recreation opportunities. Now is the time for BLM to put forward a resource management plan that reflects the input of local decision-makers and folks who rely on this area to fish, hunt, camp, and recreate with their families and friends. I urge the Bureau of Land Management to finish what it started and permanently protect Greater Little Mountain and its fish and wildlife habitat so that we can maintain our hunting and angling heritage and livelihoods’ for years to come.