Governor’s Task Force Arrives at Recommendations on Rock Springs RMP

In a breakout task force group to discuss the Rock Springs Area Resource Management Plan Revision, stockmen John Hay III, president of the Rock Springs Grazing Association, and T. Wright Dickinson of the Vermillion Ranch work on the Wyoming alternative. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr./WyoFile)

This is an interesting story from Wyofile on the Rock Springs RMP.  Turns out that the Governor got together a panel to review the draft.

Despite representing disparate interests, the 11 members of a governor-appointed task force reached consensus on more than 100 recommendations for the Bureau of Land Management’s controversial draft plan for managing some 3.6 million acres in southwestern Wyoming.

The guidance, released in a report late Wednesday, represents a cool-headed note in a public process defined by furor at the federal agency. Many of the packed meetings convened last fall to discuss the plan unfolded with anger and misinformation — including misinformation the BLM itself disseminated by mistake.

Gov. Mark Gordon held the recommendations up as an example of how Wyoming knowledge can inform a better Rock Springs land management plan.

“This particular effort was initiated out of necessity,” he said in a statement. “It was critical we amplified the public’s involvement in this important BLM planning document, and shared with BLM how Wyoming, through collaboration, creates durable and quality land management policy.”

The final recommendations include conserving landscapes around the prized hunting grounds of the Greater Little Mountain Area, protecting development of the trona assets contained within the Known Sodium Leasing Area as well as proposals for managing the “checkerboard” area of the field office that recognize access needs and wildlife migration. They support continued motorized use and continued grazing. They also urge protections for key cultural features and natural resources, but advise special designations in just a few limited areas.


Though many Wyoming denizens came out forcefully against the agency’s preferred alternative, which prioritizes conservation and gives large zones new designations of “areas of critical environmental concern,” Stone-Manning stands by the draft.

“The BLM believes there are a lot of shared values and goals in this plan that strike a balance with conservation and multiple uses,” Stone-Manning said.


“We look forward to carefully considering [the task force’s] thoughts and the public’s comments as we finalize the plan,” Stone-Manning said.


Critics decried the closure of large acreage to energy leasing, the roughly 2.5 million acres that would be excluded for new right-of-way consideration and the transference of lands into “areas of critical environmental concern,” a designation used to protect important historic, cultural and scenic values. Designated ACECs would swell from current acreage of 286,000 to more than 1.5 million acres under B.

Conservationists, however, have championed the vision outlined in the preferred alternative, saying the area is ecologically valuable enough to warrant a conservation-forward approach.


One major source of consternation spawned from a typo. The BLM mistakenly left in a provision saying it would close 4,505 miles of routes and eliminate another 10,006 miles of undesignated, illegal routes under Alternative B. BLM officials assured that mistake would be fixed.

But claims of the agency shutting down traditional activities like hunting, camping and recreating were unfounded, agency officials maintain.

“For whatever reason, people latched on very quickly that any ACEC designation was going to automatically restrict public use,” Rock Springs Field Office Manager Kimberlee Foster told WyoFile during a September open house. “And none of that is true.”


The agency has battled misinformation through the process, Stone-Manning said. “One significant area of misinformation has revolved around access to our public lands,” she said in the email. “For example, there have been rumors about no longer being able to walk your dog on public lands, roads closing, and hunting no longer being allowed. None of this is true and we are taking every opportunity to separate fact from fiction. Public lands are open to the public and there are no decisions to open or close roads being made as part of updating this resource management plan.”


Not to be unnecessarily skeptical (not being a BLM expert), but is this a case of carefully worded “sleight of planning”?  Decisions to restrict access would  not be in the plan itself, but the plan would set the context for follow-on decisions.  I note the qualifiers “automatically” restrict public use, “no decisions.. being made as part of updating.”

I also wonder if Director Stone-Manning meant this:

The BLM’s approach to defusing the hot situation, Stone-Manning said, is to start with what’s universally important about the land. “One starting place for us is always that clean water, abundant wildlife and the sustainable use of natural resources on our public lands is something that everyone cares about,” Stone-Manning said. “From this place, we are working to engage in grounded conversations and dialogue on how alternatives and details in the plan support and balance that.”

Perhaps they could have not developed the “hot situation” in the first place by talking to local folks and elected officials; or rather talking to them and following through on what they said.  If the Biden Admin is carefully watching its two land management agencies (which I don’t think it is.. but still) it might notice that many forest plan revisions have stakeholder groups that work together to develop recommendations.  Why does this RMP effort seem so relatively top-down in comparison? My BLM retiree friends would probably tell me its because FLPMA has political appointees as leading the agency.  Whether this is good governance or unnecessarily drama and ill-will-provoking is another question.


Here’s a note I received from Pew today: (Take Action Now!). The RMP has the potential to “chart a new course for public lands management here and across the country.” Why Rock Springs though, of all places?  And the “best possible policy for the region’s wildlife and people.” Because those people..who live there.. don’t actually know what’s best for them, I guess.

Dear Wilderness Supporter,

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is deciding how to conserve migration corridors and habitat for more than 350 wildlife species while preserving cultural sites and sacred landscapes across a wide swath of public land in Wyoming. When finalized, the Resource Management Plan (RMP) will dictate conservation and management of this breathtaking landscape for the next 20 years or more, and the BLM needs to hear from you in order to make the best possible policy for the region’s wildlife and people.

The Wyoming Red Desert, at the heart of this management plan, is a wild place. It is one of only a handful of vast landscapes that host such an intact assemblage of wildlife, ranging from a one-of-a-kind resident population of desert elk, the world’s longest migration corridor for mule deer, and pronghorn antelope and prairie dog colonies as far as the eye can see. Further, significant Indigenous petroglyph sites and ancient trails crisscross the landscape. At the same time, oil and gas rigs encroach on the important habitat here, as do other proposals for developing the land.

Help shape the future of our public lands by lending your voice for wildlife and wild places.

The BLM issued a draft management plan that favors a strong conservation approach, proposing to limit additional energy development while ensuring that many of the undeveloped areas and cultural resource sites remain undisturbed. With several important changes, especially for migration corridors, the Rock Springs management plan has the potential to chart a new course for public lands management here and across the country. Don’t miss your opportunity to weigh in on this critical plan and help ensure that its final version is the best it can be for wildlife and wild places!

20 thoughts on “Governor’s Task Force Arrives at Recommendations on Rock Springs RMP”

  1. So bizarre what’s been happening with this RMP. I’ve been hearing all kinds of contradictory information about it, and I know the OHV community is very confused about what effect it will have on motorized access. As best I can tell all it does is move current areas that are limited to existing roads to being limited to designated roads, but doesn’t create a travel management plan yet and leaves that to the indeterminate future. But I’ve heard claims that it will close tens of thousands of miles of existing roads. One of the articles you linked I think identifies the source of this confusion:

    “A Cowboy State Daily opinion column published Tuesday scolded the agency for misinforming the public about road closures proposed in the document. The BLM has maintained that its preferred draft land-use plan does not include expansive road closures, but nine times the document states that the agency’s preferred option would close 4,505 miles of routes and eliminate another 10,006 miles of undesignated, illegal routes.

    On Wednesday, BLM officials told WyoFile those numbers were included in the document in error. They were remnants from a travel management plan that was being developed in conjunction with the land-use plan, though was later scrapped, Foster said.

    The Killpecker Sand Dunes, located on Bureau of Land Management property north of Rock Springs, are part of the landscape that the BLM is assessing via a draft land-use plan. The conservation focus of the plan’s preferred option has not gone over well in Wyoming. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile) “We need to fix that,” she said. “That was just an oversight on our part, that we didn’t pull out the impacts from what could have happened if that travel management plan was completed.”

    I’m not sure which is more disturbing – the fact that the BLM was at one point considering adopting a travel plan along with the RMP that would have closed 14,000 miles of roads, or the fact that agency planners were so incompetent they didn’t remove language from the EA discussing it when that was ultimately nixed. Given the number of outright errors I’ve been seeing in other BLM plans lately though, it’s just par for the course for the BLM under Biden and Tracy Stone Manning.

  2. Because those people..who live there.. don’t actually know what’s best for them, I guess.

    I have no doubt they do know what’s “best for them…” but this trope wears thin considering the often limited perspective that locals bring to public lands, not to mention the ideas that indigenous peoples – TRUE locals – bring to mgmt questions.

    If govt officials, in weighing options, are not also bringing a national perspective to public lands they’re not doing their job.

    • Jim.. I think there’s a lot more nuance available to be explored in the idea of locals. For one thing, there is a history of Tribes moving through time.. so there is the question of what time period which Tribe was on the landscape. Then there are shared (and fought over) areas. Then there are people whose families have been there for say, 500 years, (in the San Luis Valley, for example), from Spanish colonization. And on up to Californians who moved there yesterday. Then there are individual Tribal members vs. Tribal governments. Like all humans, they can disagree. So what you see as perhaps a toggle (Indigenous vs. Not) I see more as a group of dials.

      Yes, government officials should include a national perspective. But what exactly that is may be contested. It’s probably more complex than “whatever friends a given Admin has” for sure.
      But I also think FLPMA requires some kind of coordination with State elected officials on RMP’s.. or at least I’ve been in those meetings for an RMP in Colorado.

  3. What Jim Furnish said.

    BLM-Wyoming Rock Springs Field Office manager Kimberlee Foster said her staffers are being subjected to anti-government threats and menacing remarks some of which appeared in the Cowboy State Daily, a mouthpiece of the far white wing of the Republican Party. Trump adherent, Harriet Hageman, Wyoming’s lone US House member is fanning the wildfire and calling for “wiping out” the deep state by targeting federal workers.

    • Really Larry? The Cowboy State Daily is “far-white”?
      People threaten fed workers, that is always bad (or really threaten anyone). If you have ideas and people who agree them do bad things, does that make your point of view bad? Because really, in the world of politics, who exactly is perfectly truthful and compassionate to those with opposing views?

      • Both sidesing racism now, Professor Friedman? Tribal interests, especially in red states like Wyoming, compel Interior to make hard choices even if it means angering a handful of Republican ranchers who graze for pennies a head.

        • You lost me at “both sidesing” and “racism”.. I was unable to find specific Tribal input on this RMP, if you have it, please share.

          • In a just world reconciliation would include land repatriation and tribal entities can adjudicate grazing permits and leases to the extractive industry.

            The plan recognizes the importance of traditional Indigenous homelands and migratory territories in this planning area for the culture and lifeways of the Eastern Shoshone, Northern Arapaho, Crow, Ute, Southern Ute, Shoshone-Bannock, Cheyenne, Blackfoot and many other Tribes. Importantly, the agency proposes protections for Tribally-defined “respected places” and acknowledges and upholds Tribal Sovereignty. Government-to-government consultation has taken place and will continue throughout the planning and implementation process.

            “The Red Desert was included in the 44-million-acre Treaty of 1863 with the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, and special places in the Northern Red Desert have been important to many Tribes for millennia. People need to know and understand our ties to our traditional territory and connection to these lands,” said Jason Baldes, the Vice President of the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council and an Eastern Shoshone Tribal member. “Personally, I know my grandmas and grandpas of long ago were praying and thinking of us, and it is our obligation to do the same for future generations, to attempt to be good people and work to leave this place better than it came to us. This plan keeps our traditional homelands safe from the exploitation we see taking place in other areas, and my hope is these lands can remain the same as they have for thousands of years.”


              • Tribal councils are almost always more interested in holding to historic land claims and less likely to compromise since co-management with the Feds isn’t sovereignty so much as it is babysitting.

                But, Interior has never been in a better position to remand some public lands to the Nations but threats of violence mean incremental progress is the better course. Most tribes are very good landlords and recognize the value of commerce.

            • And once again, the apparent voice of the tribes is a Wilderness Society press release. Talk about proving the point that the tribes are just puppets.

        • Larry, are there any tribal interests involved in the Rock Springs controversy? I know of other places like Bears Ears where tribes are driving restrictive land management policies (well, actually they are serving as rhe puppets / proxies of big ENGOs who are the ones ultimately pushing these policies), but I haven’t heard that here. In general, tribal interests are also a tiny minority just like your “handful of Republican ranchers.” Which begs the question of why they should have any more right to unilaterally dictate public lands management policies that effect all Americans?


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