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BLM says a mistake was made in SW Wyoming management plan – roads and trails won’t shut down 

A vast field backs up to bluffs under a blue sky with fluffy white skies.
Caitlin Tan
Wyoming Public Media
The Pine Mountain area is part of the BLM Rock Springs Field Office.

There’s concern about whether roads and trails will be closed if a new plan for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Rock Springs Field Office is approved, and the agency is trying to clarify.

The agency recently released a draft management plan for the 3.6 million federal acres in southwest Wyoming – which includes the Red Desert. It includes four options. The BLM’s preferred option prioritizes wildlife and habitat over things like energy development.

There’s been major concern from the public that this would shut down roads and trails, which is not true.

“All the roads that are open now will remain open,” said BLM communication’s director Brad Purdy.

Purdy said some of the confusion is stemming from a mistake the agency made. In chapter four of the management draft it originally said some roads would be closed to vehicles, with language that reads, “About 67 miles of routes would be limited to non- motorized or non-mechanized use, 4,505 miles of routes would be closed to all use, and 10,006 miles of routes and linear disturbances would be removed from the transportation network and returned to natural conditions.”

Purdy said this is a mistake and none of that will happen under any management plan.

“I completely understand why somebody would read that and have the response that some people are responding,” Purdy said about the anger that has ensued about potential road closures. “But I want to stress that it is a mistake that we made. We should have caught it and it should have been removed and it will be removed in the Final EIS (Environmental Impact Statement).”

Purdy said there could be some small exceptions where roads or trails might be closed to preserve land right around cultural sites, like petroglyphs.

“Could we look at rerouting said trail around the boundary?” Purdy said. “Yeah. Why not? We could look at that. You know, we're speaking in pretty grand hypotheticals here, but all of that is very possible.”

Separately from this mistake, there’s been a lot of misinformation spreading about the draft plan, like fear that hiking and hunting will be shut down, but Purdy said that isn’t true. Hiking and hunting on the land will still be allowed.

He emphasized all the potential plans are drafts. They want the public to comment and make suggestions – that deadline is November 16th.

“Part of the public comment review is basically having hundreds, if not thousands, of editors out there looking for those mistakes,” he said.

Those comments will shape the final plan that’ll be released next spring.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.

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