All lands are not created equally
All lands are not created equally. Some have values for wildlife that are far beyond other areas. The BLM Resource Management Plan is in draft and allows Sublette County to determine what we value. As a community, it is critical that we determine our priorities based on accurate and factual information without outside influences and based on majority consensus of we who are most affected by the changes.
As a wildlife habitat biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in Sublette County, I was in the field researching and observing wildlife and the impacts of mitigation and development from the Anticline and Jonah fields as the appointed representative from WGF. Since my retirement, I have advocated for protecting and managing this area to allow for multiple use while conserving and protecting wildlife.
A survey of gas-field development impacts was performed by The Nature Conservancy. Based on the results, it highlighted areas of importance to protect species in the Upper Green River Basin The area contains populations of wildlife species impacted from these two gas fields, from the pygmy rabbit and sage-grouse to mule deer and pronghorn.
It was highlighted again by the finding of the Red Desert to Hoback deer migration corridor and the knowledge reflecting its importance from a sage-grouse perspective. The losses to our wildlife have been harsh this winter; development in these areas can increase these losses beyond what we find acceptable.
Born in Wyoming as a second-generation hunter, my family farmed and ranched in Torrington and Worland. My upbringing, like many ranchers and farmers, included maintaining the values of Wyoming to conserve the openness and wildness of the state we love. Land used for development limits not only wildlife but our own access to places we know and use for hunting, trail riding, hiking, and recreating with our families and for future generations.
From a wildlife perspective, the Draft BLM Resource Management Plan reflects many of the key findings for species that have been negatively affected by development in the area. My knowledge of the BLM RMP is in the Red Desert, Sublette County and an area known as the Golden Triangle. It lays on the very north end of the Rock Springs Resource Area. Biologists named it the Golden Triangle, primarily for its wildlife values, and perhaps as important from a sage-grouse perspective. This area contains the largest density of sage-grouse anywhere in the world. It signifies an importance unlike any other public lands in the nation.
The mule deer migration corridor passes through the area where ungulate species birth fawns and nourish themselves on the wild plants, following long-established trails passed down from ancestral memory. It is the corridor that goes from I-80 in the south, which is the winter range, to the Hoback Basin in the north, which is fawning and summer range. This corridor has been identified as the longest ungulate migration corridor in the lower 48 states. In addition, the Red Desert area contains winter ranges for mule deer, pronghorn antelope and elk. It is virtually an area undeveloped from an industry perspective, which is important for many species.
We can do better
I believe in Wyoming people and know that the U.S. was founded on people like you and I who were always looking for better solutions for our country. I think it is up to all of us to define what we want and how we can sustain it for future generations. My preference would be along the lines of Alternative B, prohibiting surface-disturbing activities on crucial winter ranges and near grouse leks. This is not “locking out” people who use it for recreational purposes such as hunting and access to public lands. Rather than respond to fear and falsehoods, let’s join together to make this work for our community and preserve our Sublette lifestyle.