Spring green up belies Little Mountain’s typical dryness. (Steven Brutger)

As an energy rich state, Wyoming is no stranger to trying to find the balance between extraction and conservation. In the case of the Greater Little Mountain area near Flaming Gorge, the attempt to strike that balance has taken over a decade, resulting in a recently released draft plan that embraces two of the state’s key economic drivers: the oil and gas industry and our great outdoors.


This magical high desert region of over 500,000 acres in Sweetwater County boasts habitat of badlands, aspen groves and pine forests. This place, simultaneously rugged and fragile, is one of Wyoming’s most sought-after hunting grounds for mule deer and elk and holds intimate streams that shelter genetically pure Colorado River cutthroat trout. Since 1990, this area has also benefited from more than $10 million to enhance and maintain these resources from government agencies, as well as non-profits, local businesses and community members. 

Last month, the Bureau of Land Management Rock Spring Field Office released a draft land use plan for southwest Wyoming that seeks to strike a common-sense balance between allowing for energy development and protecting sensitive fish and wildlife habitats.

What I appreciate most in the BLM’s balanced, thoughtful approach is how it does not impact existing oil and gas leases. In fact, over half of the planning area is already leased and there are already active, producing wells across the landscape. Simultaneously, the BLM’s newly proposed oil and gas rule would be a long-overdue win for local communities by reducing conflict between leasing and drilling and other uses that are essential to supporting Wyoming’s way of life: fishing, hunting, recreation and conservation.

For decades, the federal oil and gas leasing programs prioritized resource extraction over valuable fish and wildlife habitats on our shared public lands. This is why Congress had to pass legislation in 2009 to protect 1.2 million acres in the Wyoming Range from ill-advised oil and gas leasing. But now the BLM is working to improve public land management by curtailing speculative leasing that directly impacts wildlife habitat while providing little if any public benefit.

Public lands oil and gas development has no doubt benefited Wyoming and our country, and will continue to do so for years to come. But what’s important moving forward is continuing to find a balance between our economy and special places like Greater Little Mountain. 

As Wyoming sportsmen and sportswomen begin to ramp up for hunting season — with many pursuing game in the landscapes where they work — I appreciate that the BLM’s proposed management plan for southwest Wyoming seeks to provide for both responsible energy development and conservation. 

Throughout the fall, the BLM will be taking public comment on the four proposed alternative plans, and now is the time for those who care about the future of public land hunting and fishing in southwest Wyoming to speak up. Energy development and conservation need not be mutually exclusive, but it takes smart planning to strike this balance. This is our moment to get it right.   

Sadie Valdez is the President of the Seedskadee Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Vice Chair of Wyoming Trout Unlimited.

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  1. Terrible article and opinion. Real users of the area need to respond with a huge negative towards the plan. It is so very restrictive for all users of the area and caters to radical environmentalists who want no use of the area. Please submit your comments to the blm to keep wy free!

  2. The headline reads: “BLM’s new management plan balances conservation, energy extraction ” . That’s on paper. BLM paper. Just words.

    I’ll believe it only after seeing it actually play out on the ground or in the riparian areas. I remain skeptical based on fifty years of engaging all manner of BLM (Bureau of Livestock and Mining) plans in my Big Horn Basin region.

  3. DRILL BABY DRILL! This Oil/Gas under public lands belong to ALL OF US! Mother Earth created the oil gas. It is organic as one can get. All Fossil Fuels are created from plants/dinosaurs/ancient sea life of all kinds. This old world has heated up cooled off since day 1. Stop living in fear of the future. Stop believing Kerry’s fear speech—-as he jets around in his fossil fueled airplane!! Start telling Bill Gates stick your insect food up your rear end Bill! This old world will be here 100/200/300 years from now. Either be Hot or Cold.

    1. It isn’t the future I fear. It is the irresponsible care being taken of this earth by people without vision. I have grandchildren. I hope to have great grandchildren and great great grandchildren etc. I would like to leave them a world fit to live in, not one ready to implode that is dying and unfit to live in when I am gone because of actions I might take. Where will YOUR children’s children and their children live? Is that important to you? We already know that fracking is destabilizing areas such as in Oklahoma and Arkansas where I live and where we are getting more earthquakes now. While they aren’t as strong as in California they are producing sink holes in roads and yards. Add to that the increase in intense, severe weather effects and I would have to be a fool not to think about what is happening. In Little Rock – my home and my son’s, tornados have twice struck, and wiped out, the same residential area, just as it was being rebuilt, this season. That is unheard of in all the years we have been here. I sincerely hope you are not victim to such events.
      I have passed through Wyoming. It is a beautiful State but being hit by more, intense, and difficult to bring under control, wildfires – as is all of the north.
      2-300 years! Is that all that concerns you? That is a very short period of time for your family legacy which may exist many more hundreds of years in the past. Maybe that history means nothing to you, but I’m sure many are not so blasé about their family history and future.
      Your flippant comment leads me to believe you wanted to get a rise from someone. Hope my calm, rational answer didn’t disappoint too much!

  4. While I deeply appreciate the effort of the Rock Springs draft RMP utilizing, the tool that they have had available to them for a long time, ACEC, (Area of Critical Environmental Concern), to protect wildlife and wild places, I remain deeply suspect. ACEC’s are not permanent and can be removed easily by the BLM. Wilderness designations, on the other hand can only be removed by an act of congress, after much public comment and participation. ACEC’s are not a replacement for Wilderness designations.

    1. Yes, Thomas, but on the other hand, ACECs may not need to be permanent. Restoration can be accomplished by BMPs and whatever caused the concern in the first place can be rectified. Difficult to do that in a wilderness area, as far as I have observed. Examples might be overgrazing or habitat destruction due to exploitive nonrenewable resource extraction. You are right, it is harder to replace wilderness designations, but I think that sometimes they are overkill where an ACEC would have sufficed, and a responsible public should, in time, have access to recreate there. It’s not easy for those who are elderly or disabled to recreate in a wilderness area.