Workshop brings out ranchers in Farson for input on BLM’s southwest management plan
Conversations continue about the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) plan for its land in southwest Wyoming. About 60 people came out for a public workshop held in Farson – a town south of Pinedale with a population of about 200 people.
The purpose was to give Governor Mark Gordon and his team more public input on the BLM’s draft resource management plan (RMP) for overseeing the use of about 3.6 million nearby federal acres.
“I don't think the ranchers have been adequately represented in this argument,” said Jeff Ramaj, a Farson rancher who went to the workshop at the Eden Valley Community Center. “A lot of it's been recreation and of course industry. But I think the ranchers are a very integral part of managing the environment.”
He’s concerned how cattle grazing will be affected. The BLM has outlined four draft alternatives – ranging from allowing lot’s of development to very little. The latter, dubbed ‘Alternative B’ or the conservation approach, is the BLM’s ‘preferred alternative’ – the agency is required to pick one in their draft plan. Alternative B would prioritize wildlife and cultural sites, limit development and allow for slightly less livestock grazing allotments – about .02 percent.
Gordon has openly called out the BLM for its draft plan, saying he doesn't feel like it reflects what Wyomingites want for the land.
“The BLM's RMP and preferred alternative threaten to eliminate all the hard work accomplished by bulldozing over state executive orders, stakeholder engagement, and interagency agreements. Simply put, existing and future partnerships are in jeopardy. A federal fiat won't run efficiently or well over such a bumpy road,” Governor Gordon wrote in a September press release.
Gordon also requested an extension on the public comment period – which the BLM granted. An additional 60 days were allotted – pushing the deadline to Jan. 17.
Shortly after, Gordon assigned a ‘task force’ of local and state leaders to help shape the state’s comment on the RMP. He called for three public workshops – Rock Springs, Green River and Farson – to get a pulse on what people in southwest Wyoming are thinking.
“If you had attended the BLM public meetings, whether in Big Piney or Rock Springs, this is going to look a little different from that,” said Nolan Rap, Gordon’s natural resource policy advisor who spoke at the Farson workshop.
The BLM public meetings held earlier this fall weren’t as interactive. This workshop was designed to be interactive. The state partnered with the University of Wyoming (UW), who helped facilitate the meeting. To kick things off, several UW representatives explained the entire process of the BLM’s RMP – specifically pointing out that the BLM was required to update the 26 year old plan and that the draft that’s out now, is not set in stone.
“Don't just focus on one alternative, think about different pieces of the alternative that you like, because again, as the BLM moves forward between draft and final it will consider amending alternatives,” said Temple Stoellinger, associate professor at UW’s Haub School. “So just because one alternative says something today doesn't mean it's going to stay that same thing in the final.”
After the introduction, attendees were put in breakout groups to discuss their thoughts. As mentioned earlier, many were ranchers who were concerned about the future of livestock grazing. All the comments were recorded and will help shape the Governor’s response to the BLM. The hope is this will be reflected in the BLM’s final plan, which will likely be released this spring.