The U.S. Bureau of Land Management wants to know whether the Marton Ranch, which it acquired in a controversial 2022 sale, should serve as a low-key and lightly promoted river recreation area, much like the rest of its holdings in the North Platte River Special Management Area.

That’s how the federal agency envisions operating the new 35,668-acre addition to its contiguous block of 75,000 acres. An environmental review proposes extending the special management framework that governs other federal land along the river just southwest of Casper to the now-public Marton Ranch. Minor improvements would enhance fishing, boating, floating and other recreation while brochures and signs would inform recreationists about the resource. That stretch of the North Platte is home to a world-class trout fishery.

Now the agency is asking the public to weigh in on that vision.

The BLM will host a meeting from 5-7 p.m. Nov. 8  in the Hilton Garden Inn in Casper to explain management options and receive comment. 

Who said what

“The Marton Ranch has been in public ownership for over a year, and many have had the chance to experience it,” BLM acting Casper Field Manager Ben Bigalke said in a statement. “We want to hear from the community – what changes, if any, need to occur to how it’s managed.”

The federal purchase last year upset some Wyoming politicians who complained of the federal government securing more property in Wyoming, where it already owns and manages about 48% of the land. Gov. Mark Gordon said the government should divest itself of an amount of federal property equal to the ranch.

Other lawmakers have eyed legislation that would alert the state in advance of new federal land purchases and give Wyoming an opportunity to also bid on such properties. Worries about infringement on private property rights have so far stalled bills with that aim.

Why it matters

The BLM’s special management area along the river covers 118 square miles, according to The Conservation Fund, which worked with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the landowners to buy the ranch and then sell it to the BLM. Money from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund completed the $21-million transaction.

American Angler Magazine named the reach of the North Platte the top spot in the Lower 48 to catch trophy rainbow and brown trout, according to The Conservation Fund. Extending the BLM’s special management template across the ranch would retain recreation spending in the area and make Wyoming more attractive as a place to relocate and live, according to the BLM.

Limited development would maintain or upgrade existing facilities with a focus on public access, boat launching, parking, resource protection and sanitation.

Before the purchase, private ownership limited public access to about 8 miles of the river.Written comments may be submitted at the Casper meeting, by email to project manager Mike Robinson at or mailed to Robinson at the BLM Casper Field Office, 2987 Prospector Dr., Casper, WY 82604.

The BLM’s outline for use of the North Platte River Special Recreation Management Area. (BLM)

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at or (307)...

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  1. I think the feds are better land stewards than the state of Wyoming. Just my observation from 50 yrs in this state that I love.

  2. The Conservation Fund is the real driver for this sale. A few years a close friend sold her ranch along the Niobrara River in Nebraska to the CF, and the land went to the Forest Service and is managed by Nebraska Game and Parks. Her ranch neighbors tied up the sale in lawsuit mostly in anger against the Feds and the focus on wildlife.
    Gordon staff that wrote his first objections railed against more public access to the river as if it was written by the local fishing outfitters that have bought up properties with river frontage. The State of Wyoming was gifted a ranch in the Douglas area for public use. to my understanding it is only open to the public on a limited basis for hunting. That is what key legislators in Wyoming want for us on public land.

  3. I don’t see a lot of negative from the BLM receiving help from RMEF to purchase land that hunters can use to hunt on or as easement’s to cross to get to National Forest or around private landowners who refuse to allow hunters access to public lands.

    The federal lands in Wyoming belong to the citizens of our country, especially to the people who live here in our great State. Let’s manage them responsibly and let the majority of us here have a chance to use them.

  4. I would like to think (and hope) that the BLM plans are well-intentioned, but with the Rock Springs Management Plan in mind, one must recall Regan’s admonition of caution — “I’m from the government and am here to help”!

  5. I’m very supportive of this acquisition and favor the BLM’s management approach. I recently learned that the stretch of the Big Horn River below Yellowtail dam in Montana generates $90 to 110 million a year in economic activity beginning with flights into Billings. As word spreads about the greatly improved access to the North Platte we can anticipate a surge in recreational activity like never before. we’re starting to see it here in Thermopolis where recreational activity on the Big Horn is way up. Its very clear that the Federal agencies are moving into increased recreational activity on BLM and USFS administered land in Wyoming. What’s confusing is who has the primary management responsibility over the river recreation. On the Big Horn River in Thermopolis Wyoming Game and Fish is almost fully in charge of river recreation including many boat ramps – but the Big Horn does not flow through very much BLM surface. With respect to the North Platte Marton Ranch BLM land, it appears its a shared responsibility since Wyoming Game and Fish has the hatcheries and staff biologists on board. It almost seems like Game and Fish will management some sections of the North Platte and the BLM other segments. I assume BLM will convert former two track unimproved ranch roads to BLM standard roads which will take some time. And then there’s the question of who owns the river bottom – private land owners may own some of the river bottom, the State of Wyoming some and the BLM some – very confusing. And who will license the boats on the river and who will inspect them for invasive species?? Game and Fish already is on top of these issues but I assume the BLM is not quite as experienced addressing the other concerns. Lots of management details which need to be discussed with the BLM and certainly requires a lot of input from Game and Fish. Oh, wyoming sells the fishing licenses so that obviously gives the State standings with respect to management decisions; and the state owns the water rights flowing through the Marton Ranch – now if that doesn’t raise the possibility of confusion I don’t know what more to expect. A fishing guide did tell me the license numbers on his boat were BLM issued licenses on the Big Horn River even though the BLM owns almost no land through which the river flows – does the BLM require federal boat licenses now or will they in the future along the North Platte. Anglers may end up getting both state and federal boat licenses – all we need now is for the counties to require boat licenses too. It’ll all work out in the end – maybe.

  6. While there may be things to criticize about some BLM plans, this is not one of them. The purchase of Marton Ranch, and the the proposed limited development plan, are solid efforts that will enhance the recreational opportunities on the North Platte, while also keeping the natural character of the river corridor intact. This is good management that is responsive to the public input. Politicians who have fought this purchase are remarkably out of step with the public’s desire for enhanced recreational opportunities and doing a disservice to those they represent.