Two greater sage grouse males strut on a snow-covered Sublette County lek. (photo by Elizabeth Boehm courtesy of The National Audubon Society)

All lands are not created equally. Some have values for wildlife that are far beyond other areas. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s draft plan for managing 3.6 million acres of federal land in southwest Wyoming provides an opportunity for Sublette County to determine what we value. 


We must determine our priorities based on accurate and factual information devoid of outside influences, and based on our own consensus, because we’re a community that will be directly impacted by the plan selected.

As a wildlife habitat biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in Sublette County, I was in the field researching and observing wildlife and the impacts of mitigation and development from the Pinedale Anticline and Jonah oil and gas fields. Since my retirement, I have advocated for protecting and managing this area to allow for multiple uses while conserving and protecting wildlife. The Nature Conservancy conducted a survey of gas field development impacts. The results highlighted areas of importance to protect species in the Upper Green River Basin. The area contains populations of wildlife species impacted from these two gas fields, from the pygmy rabbit and sage grouse to mule deer and pronghorn. It was highlighted again by the finding of the Red Desert to Hoback deer migration corridor and the knowledge reflecting its importance from a sage grouse perspective. The losses to our wildlife have been harsh this winter, development in these areas can increase these losses beyond what we find acceptable. 

The BLM resource management planning process underway right now provides an opportunity to strike a sustainable balance between development and conservation. 

Born in Wyoming as a 2nd generation hunter, my family farmed and ranched in Torrington and Worland. My upbringing, like many ranchers and farmers, included maintaining the Wyoming values of conserving the openness and wildness of the state we love. Land used for development limits not only wildlife but our own access to the places we use for hunting, trail riding, hiking and recreating with our families, and that we hope to pass onto future generations.

From a wildlife perspective, the BLM’s draft resource management plan reflects many of the key findings for species that have been negatively affected by development in the area. My knowledge of the BLM RMP is in the Red Desert, Sublette County and an area known as the Golden Triangle, which lies on the very north end of the Rock Springs Resource Area. Biologists named it the Golden Triangle, primarily for its wildlife values in general and its importance to sage grouse in particular. This area contains the largest density of sage grouse anywhere in the world. It’s importance is unlike any other public lands in the nation. 

Migration corridors pass through the area where ungulate species, like mule deer birth fawns and nourish themselves on the wild plants, following long established trails passed down from ancestral memory. One such route goes from I-80 in the south, which is the winter range, all the way to the fawning and summer range in the Hoback Basin in the north. This corridor has been identified as the longest ungulate migration corridor in the lower 48 states. In addition, the Red Desert area contains winter ranges for mule deer, pronghorn antelope and elk. It is virtually an undeveloped area from an industry perspective, which is important for many species. 

Our vast swaths of undeveloped habitat are something Wyoming should be proud of and we can do even better. I believe in Wyoming’s people and know that the U.S. was founded by people like you and me who were always looking for better solutions for our country. I think it is up to all of us to define what we want and how we can sustain it for future generations. 

My preference would be along the lines of the BLM’s Alternative B, prohibiting surface-disturbing activities on crucial winter ranges and near grouse leks. This is not “locking out” people who use it for recreational purposes such as hunting or hiking. Rather than respond to fear and falsehoods, let’s join together to make this work for our community and preserve our Sublette lifestyle.

Dan Stroud has lived in Wyoming all his life. He graduated from Worland High School and has two degrees — BS in Wildlife Mgt, and MS in Range Management — both from the University of Wyoming. He started...

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  1. Excellent article, Dan. I totally agree with you. However, my limited reading of BLM’S Alternative B has me questioning if it goes too far and is unbalanced. What BLM employees are saying is not what “B” states in writing. Seems there could be a more balanced solution — in the written document.

  2. Nice work, Dan. This plan is becoming ultra- politicized, and there’s a ton of misinformation and disinformation floating around out there.

  3. Thank you for sharing your knowledge of the area in question, Mr. Stroud. I hope the people also agree that the wildness that is Wyoming should be valued and protected. I know my father (USFS Ranger for the Black Hills District in the 70’s), were he still alive, would agree with you!

  4. Thank you for this thoughtful piece.
    It is always about following the best available technology. Whether it is grazing, managing wildlife, using resources and building infrastructure.
    Best available technology means sustainable use.
    And multiple use does not mean multiple using every square inch of our public lands with greedy practices.
    We used to value conservation. Now it seems to be a dirty word for many.
    But, it is not for those of us that love Wyoming, its open spaces and world class wildlife.

  5. Good perspective Dan. As a Wyoming native myself, I value what our state provides for wildlife habitat and recreational use. I’d hate to think that years from now someone would have to say “they didn’t know what they had until it’s gone”.

  6. Thanks for pointing out Wyoming has wild lands of national and global importance. We should be careful not to ruin our legacy with development in the wrong places.