After years of public input the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a Record of Decision and final Resource Management Plan for the Lander field office that shows continued progress toward more balanced planning and management. Overall, the plan has several provisions that guide energy development to more appropriate places, thereby providing more certainty for industry while also protecting important wildlife, recreation, and heritage resources.
“The Lander plan developed some sensible solutions for best managing our shared public lands in Wyoming,” said Dan Smitherman, Wyoming representative for The Wilderness Society. “We all recognize that recreation, cultural and historical resources and abundant wildlife are what draw us to the outdoors and are also economic drivers for this region. Between the Beaver Rim Master Leasing Plan and the National Trails Corridor, this is a plan that the BLM can build on as it moves forward with progressive land use planning.”
The Wilderness Society is especially pleased to see that the final Lander RMP protected key wildlife habits and recreational areas in the southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from mining and energy development. This includes several areas in the Dubois valley as well as areas on the Lander slope, and along the Wind River Mountains. Many Wyomingites – from sportsmen to outdoor business interests – weighed in during the plan development process in support of these provisions.
A new planning component called a Master Leasing Plan (MLP) was developed for the Beaver Rim was developed as part of this Lander RMP process and it creates a proactive, finer scale approach to balancing energy development and other values in the region. The Wilderness Society and recreationists across the West are also pleased that a National Trails Corridors will help ensure visitors can continue to experience an authentic experience along sections of the historic Oregon Trail, California Trail, Mormon Pioneer Trail and Pony Express routes – more than 480,000 acres of American history.
“The Wyoming BLM is learning to manage our lands for more than just energy development,” said Smitherman. “This plan shows potential for putting conservation and recreation on equal ground with energy development in the region. It is the result of collaborative work among a lot of different stakeholders, and the balanced approach this RMP lays out echoes that collaboration.”
There is still work to be done, however. While the RMP does address a number of management needs in the region, it could have gone farther to protect valuable habitat for the imperiled greater sage-grouse. Managing areas to actually conserve habitat, including thorough reliable closures to oil and gas drilling and greater buffers between sage grouse leks and development are measures needed to help protect the grouse.
“Even though more BLM plans for sage-grouse are forthcoming in Wyoming and throughout the West, the time to take proactive steps to protect sage-grouse habitat in Lander is now,” said Smitherman. “The agency missed an opportunity to take a creative approach to protecting prime sage-grouse habitat before any further damage occurs. We hope to see other plans follow the initiative the Lander plan takes in regards to collaboration and managing for recreation and cultural values, while also safeguarding sage-grouse.”