OPINION: Working Together to Strike a Balance for Land Management

OPINION: Working Together to Strike a Balance for Land Management

Josh Coursey, Muley Fanatic Foundation President/CEO. Courtesy photo

This opinion piece was written and submitted by Josh Coursey, Muley Fanatic Foundation President/CEO.

The following piece is the opinion of TRN Media’s News Director David Martin, and doesn’t reflect that of TRN Media.

Land use planning does not usually grab a lot of headlines. It tends to happen out of the public eye; its terminology can be confusing and hard for the layperson to understand; and its impact – while significant – can seem removed from our daily lives.

That’s all changed over the past few months. You can hardly open a paper or go online these days without coming across a story about BLM’s draft land use plan for the Rock Springs area. Members of the public are clearly engaged and paying attention in ways that they haven’t before. This is to be applauded in itself.

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As someone who has been working on this planning process for well over a decade, I am pleased that so many are now so interested in the future of southwestern Wyoming’s public lands. But I recognize that not everyone may be as familiar with the ins and outs of this process as I am. So, I am greatly appreciative of the steps that BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning and Governor Gordon have taken to ensure that the public has access to credible information about the Rock Springs plan and ample opportunities to provide input on its various management alternatives.

In October, when there was quite a bit of misinformation about the draft plan swirling around, and it became clear that the public needed more time to digest and provide informed opinions on the plan, Director Stone-Manning rightly extended the public comment period by two additional months. She also paid a visit to Wyoming recently to hear from stakeholders first-hand about their perspectives on the draft plan.

Governor Gordon also displayed commendable leadership by convening a stakeholder task force to identify areas of agreement on the Rock Springs plan. I was a member of this task force, which included representatives from the mining, oil and gas, hunting and angling, conservation, local government, motorized recreation, travel and tourism and ranching communities. I believe that progress was made. In the end, we were able to agree on and provide BLM with over twenty high-level recommendations on the plan as well as clear considerations for the needs of those who call southwest Wyoming home.

So, what now? Over the next few weeks, BLM will review the comments it received on the Rock Springs draft plan. And based on those comments, it will rework the draft plan in some fashion and then release a modified version for the public to review. I am cautiously optimistic that because of the leadership shown by Director Stone-Manning and Governor Gordon, along with the work of the task force members, the Rock Springs plan will ultimately strike the balance that we need in Wyoming. 

I’ve lived in southwestern Wyoming for most of my life with the exception of my service in the U.S. Army and post-secondary education. And I’m a firm believer that public lands are one of the things that make it so special. The boundless open space and its accessibility, the world-class hunting and fishing in places like the Greater Little Mountain area, the economic opportunities that pubic lands create for our communities… they are a treasure and resource we must manage carefully and thoughtfully. 

I hope that we can come together in that spirit and get behind a vision that will conserve the Greater Little Mountain area and other places where we fish, hunt, and recreate while also supporting and promoting the economic growth that our communities need. I am confident that by continuing to work together and showcasing our needs and values that we can strike this balance.