public lands

public domain

If there's a fee for either a camping site or a day use area on Forest Service land, there's probably some kind of toilet there. But solving the problem of human waste in vaulted or backcountry toilets is not as easy as flushing it out of the system.

Separate bills are active in Congress to alternately strengthen or weaken the law used to create national monuments.

U.S. Senate committees will hold hearings this week on the Trump administration's plan to reorganize the government. It includes a department that manages millions of acres of public lands in our region.

Wyoming Wildlife Federation


It will soon be impossible to get oil and gas leases on 24,000 acres of the Wyoming Range. Conservation non-profit the Trust for Public Land bought out existing leases within the Wyoming Range to maintain the area for wildlife and recreation. It’s the second time the groups have done this in the western part of the state – bringing the total number of retired acres by the trust to 80,000. Chris Deming, a project manager with the Trust for Public Land, who helped lead the way for both acquisitions.

This week President Trump pardoned two Oregon ranchers serving five-year prison terms for arson on federal lands. The two men had become a cause celebre in the ongoing fight between ranchers and the federal government over water and grazing rights.

 


Pilot Hill Project

Community organizers in Laramie have been working to raise over $10 million to buy 5,500 acres of privately-owned land, turning the mountainside property east of town known as Pilot Hill into a park. 

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is nothing fancy when you first drive in. No towering cliffs or dramatic canyons. It’s a calm, sunny valley – 6,000 acres all totaled -- of meadow and ponderosa pine forest.

DHM Design

The Trust for Public Land has released new plans for the Astoria Hot Springs Park. The Jackson Hole nonprofit involved over 2,500 locals in the design process.

The Great Salt Lake is vast — around 1,700 square miles of state and federal public lands.

Maggie Mullen

Over the next few weeks, we're going to take you on a tour of some of our favorite public lands.  

Most people visit Curt Gowdy State Park in Southeastern Wyoming for the world-class mountain biking, reservoirs filled with rainbow trout, and hikes through steep granite formations.

But entomologist Christy Bell comes for the bees.

6:30 a.m. is one of the best times to watch wildlife in Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar Valley.

Everything smells like sage. It’s really cold and there are a bunch of retirees staring through hire-powered telescopes at a lush, verdant hill.

Jon Sullivan, PD Photo

An anonymous donor plans to give a historic acre of land surrounded by Grand Teton National Park to the park.

Public lands facilities around the nation are cutting budgets and staff. But in the Mountain West region, cutbacks at Montana's National Bison Refuge are prompting accusations of a political vendetta by regional U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managers. 

A lot of people may not have heard of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, or that it’s in jeopardy.

When you hear about companies like REI or Patagonia, you might think about tents, rain jackets or hikers in puffy coats on a mountaintop. But how about politics? These outdoorsy companies are part of a new wave of business advocates fighting for public lands.


The Bureau of Land Management has presented Congress with a controversial new plan to manage wild horses.

Environmental groups want to stop sheep grazing on public lands in the region. The issue is playing out in the courts in Idaho and Montana.  

U.S. Bureau of Land Management


Since 2010, whenever a parcel of land was nominated to be leased by an oil and gas company, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) went through a significant review period. There were site visits, comments when draft environmental assessments were released, and an additional 30 days of public comment once the sale was live. But Tim Spisak, acting assistant director of energy, minerals, and realty management for the BLM, said all that review wasn’t efficient for energy production.

The Patagonia website recently took another swipe at the Trump administration over its decision to shrink national monuments in Utah. This political activism may be the new norm for the outdoor recreation industry.

Wyoming County Commissioners Association

For 40 years, dozens of wilderness study areas, or WSAs, have been stuck in limbo, waiting for Congress to decide whether they should be given official wilderness status or released for other uses. So, three years ago, the Wyoming County Commissioners Association formed the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative, collaborating with local stakeholders to answer that question.

Following Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke's repeated calls for more management of public lands, this spring the Bureau of Land Management is giving certain ranchers more say and options in grazing their cattle on public lands.


Laramie Range where it borders Medicine Bow National Forest
Robert Kirkwood

Five minutes from downtown Laramie, Melanie Arnett unlocks a gate. She pulls a truck through and we’re inside the 5,500-acre parcel of land that Laramie folks have been drooling to explore for years. I’m feeling pretty smug about my VIP pass.

“Right now, we’re looking right at Pilot Peak,” says Melanie Arnett, who was recently hired to serve as the Pilot Hill Land Project’s director. A local businessman, John Pope with Blue Sky Group, volunteered to pay her salary for now.

Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site

Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site near Worland in the Bighorn Mountains has been occupied by people for over 10,000 years and visitors have long flocked there to see panels of ancient rock art.

Wyoming State Parks administrator Domenic Bravo said traffic has also increased there thanks to staff-led programs, like youth hunting camps and a groomed ice rink.

Credit By Paul Rau and the Bureau of Land Management via CC BY 2.0

About 20 years ago, Wyoming acquired a ranch north of Cody that had briefly been the home of a wanted drug smuggler. Now, there’s debate in Park County about what to do with the property.

The Park County Sheriff and another local complained to the County Commissioners that the Beartooth Ranch near the Clark Fork of the Yellowstone River is an eyesore, full of decrepit buildings and weeds. So, the commissioners decided to write a letter to Governor Matt Mead requesting the right to sell the property.

Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

The Trump administration released its infrastructure plan and proposed budget for 2019. One conservation organization believes it will have brutal impacts on national parks.

President Trump and Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke’s, proposed budget requests a 16 percent cut from the Department of Interior’s 2018 budget. It also prioritizes energy and mineral development on public lands, cuts that Zinke calls unnecessary or duplicated programs, and has language detailing requirements for selling off public lands.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department logo
Wyoming Game and Fish Department

A private ranch has donated enough money to open, or keep open, about 7200 acres of private land around Wyoming for public access to hunting and fishing. The Pathfinder Ranches gave more than $2,250 to Access Yes, a Wyoming Game and Fish Department program. 

Wyoming Outdoor Council

A 14-year veteran of the Wyoming Outdoor Council will take the reins in the coming year. Lisa McGee has worked on decade long projects for the conservation organization that have prevented fracking at the Hoback River and stopped oil and gas leasing within the Wyoming Range. She replaces Gary Wilmot who stepped down in September.

Tom Koerner, USFWS Mountain-Plains

 

Last winter, protestors packed committee meetings after lawmakers proposed a constitutional amendment to allow the state of Wyoming to take over management of federal lands. Republican Senator Larry Hicks supported the idea, but he was open to other options. So, he reached out to Shane Cross and the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and challenged them to come with a compromise.

Amy Sisk/Inside Energy

Wyoming’s Republicans in Washington are hoping to pass broad energy policy in this congressional session after inter-party squabbling in the GOP derailed the effort last year.

In the last Congress, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan energy bill that included Wyoming Senator John Barrasso’s push to expedite the export of Liquefied Natural Gas. That bill garnered support from 85 out of 100 senators but was never sent to the desk of former President Obama. Barrasso was upset that the bill died after negotiations with House Republicans fell apart.

The Department of the Interior is outlining steps aimed at increasing energy production on federal lands. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says boosting production of resources like oil and gas creates jobs and enhances the nation’s energy security.

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