What are public lands? For some they are a place to hunt, fish and recreate. For others, they are a place to find peace and solace. For many, they are both.
We all have those special haunts that aren’t just a spot on a map, they are a place in our hearts. For Haley Richards, who grew up in nearby Rock Springs, Wyo., Little Mountain is one of those places. It’s where she spent time in the mountains with her late father and where she caught her first trout on a fly.
Little Mountain is special to a lot of people who have experienced its subtle charm, abundant wildlife, native trout and backcountry adventure. But its future is uncertain as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) develops a plan for if and how oil and gas development will occur on this 522,236-acre landscape.
Seven years ago, the BLM’s Rock Spring Field Office initiated the revision of its now 21 year-old management plan for 3.6 million acres of public land. Throughout this long process, local public land users have been advocating for a responsible, upfront plan for oil and gas leasing.
People like Wally Johnson, a Sweetwater County Commissioner, have gone so far as to travel to Washington, D.C., to make the case that a long-term plan is needed that will allow for responsible development while keeping Little Mountain a special place for generations to come.
You see, a lot of people love Little Mountain. This was on display this year as the BLM considered, and then withdrew, a proposal to offer 173, 923 acres of oil and gas leases for sale in the Greater Little Mountain Area. After hearing from numerous residents, Gov. Mead, Sweetwater County Commission and local governments, the BLM made the right decision to defer the leases until the completion of the new land management plan. The decision honors the voice of local governments, private landowners, hunters, anglers, miners and others who want to see a balance with responsible development, good jobs and thriving fish and wildlife populations.
People like Wally and Haley have been standing up for Little Mountain for a long time and there are many others standing with them. They aren’t asking for a lot, just an upfront plan to keep Little Mountain like it is today for future generations to enjoy as they have.
The agency should be completing the revised plan by April 2019 and we’ll soon know if the BLM is going to heed their wishes and include strong conservation measures in the new plan.
Learn more about Little Mountain and the people working to save it at the Greater Little Mountain Coalition.
Watch Haley’s video to see what Little Mountain and public lands mean to her.