On August 18, 2023, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Rock Springs Field Office Resource Management Plan (RMP) revision.   As with typical NEPA process, four management alternatives have been identified.  Typically, the alternative doesn’t deviate much from current management or provides a compromise in the management needs of the area.  In the current case, the agency released the most prevalent preservation directed management.

Concerns of the plan range from surface disturbance of roads to subsurface restrictions and a reduction in the issuance of mineral leases.  Specific to agriculture, there will be an approximately 7,600 AUM reduction in the southern part of Field Office management area and increased scrutiny of production practices regarding spatial-temporal constraints of mineral and grazing.  Also, the range con of the field office mentioned that riparian areas in grazing allotments are nearly the primary deciding factor to reduce AUMs by 20% per year until the resting protocol provides the results desired or closure of the entire allotment.

The dramatic reduction in land use from proposed Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) is also concerning.  The restrictions with these designations could essentially allow for de facto wilderness areas that only allow for recreational walking and minimal resource use.  

Among these concerns another concern is the use of outdated wildlife science that’s cited in the plan.   Our local Wyoming Game & Fish Department (WGFD) agents have publicly stated that the studies cited are out of date and shouldn’t be used in the document.  Also, there are certain groups pushing the agency to roll out this alternative as the preferred choice for upcoming management.  

Overall, the preferred alternative chosen by the BLM could be a problematic sign of what’s to come.   One can’t help but draw parallels between the 30x30 initiative, BLM Conservation and Land Health Rule (still in development) and other preservation efforts to this plan of non-use on federal lands.  The onslaught of rules around the preservationist agenda is troubling, but together we can provide a united voice during the comment period.  

The WyFB requested a complete withdrawal of the preferred alternative andwill continue to be involved in the commenting process. Although the BLM did not grant a withdrawal of the preferred alternative, on October 19, the agency extended the comment period by 60 days, resulting in the comment deadline of January 17, 2024.  To comment, please visit the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation website Action Alert page for information.