A two-track winds through the northern Red Desert. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

A legislative committee will draft a measure to prohibit state and local authorities from aiding or cooperating with federal land management agencies “when they pursue policies which harm Wyoming’s core interests.” 

The move is in response to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s draft plan for managing 3.6 million acres of federal land in southwest Wyoming.

The Select Federal Natural Resource Management Committee also voted unanimously to draft a bill creating a new full-time position in the governor’s office to act as a watchdog “protecting the state’s interest against federal overreach.” Lawmakers on the panel suggested recruiting current and former BLM employees for the position with a signing bonus. They also discussed offering “bonuses and or opportunities for promotion” for state employees who go “above and beyond in protecting the state’s interests” against perceived federal overreach.

After hearing several hours of testimony on Friday regarding the BLM’s draft resource management plan revision for the Rock Springs field office the committee determined it poses an existential threat to the state’s economy and outdoor culture. 

The Bureau of Land Management began updating its resource management plan for the Rock Springs Field Office, pictured, in 2011. A dozen years later there’s a draft plan on the table for the 3.6-million-acre region that’s ignited a fury in Wyoming. (BLM)

The draft proposal’s preferred alternative — “alternative B” — would expand “no surface occupancy” designations for industrial activities to protect wildlife habitat and cultural resources, and increase the acreage that’s off-limits to new rights-of-way for things like maintained roads, power lines and pipelines by 481%. 

Public discussion of the RMP has been rife with misinformation, much of it coming from or amplified by elected officials. Widespread restrictions on recreation, for example, have elicited significant public outrage despite the plan largely leaving recreational access untouched, according to the agency.

Regardless of assurances from BLM officials that alternative planning scenarios are still in play during the draft comment period, committee members heard pleas from local officials to safeguard against potential federal actions even prior to the agency implementing a plan. That included testimony from Sweetwater County Sheriff John Grossnickle. 

“The [BLM’s planning] process and its plan reflect nothing less than a continued effort of the current administration to weaponize executive privilege and rulemaking authority to circumvent the democratic process to impose a political agenda that bypasses voters and the will of our people,” Grossnickle said. “Because of this, if the restrictions of the preferred alternative of the Rock Springs RMP are set in place, the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office will take a hard stance [regarding] cooperative law enforcement with the Bureau of Land Management. In particular, the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office will not cooperate with or assist the BLM with enforcement action regarding the Rock Springs RMP.”

Committee members agreed the state should mirror the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office’s stance and extend a statewide prohibition on enforcing federal land management agency policies, including those of the U.S. Forest Service.

“I love your stance and I wholeheartedly agree with you,” Rep. Reuben Tarver (R-Gillette) told Grossnickle. “And I think the rest of Wyoming needs to get behind you.”

Sen. Brian Boner (R-Douglas) holds up a bill while speaking on an amendment during the 66th Wyoming Legislature Wednesday, March 10, 2021, from the Senate chamber inside the state Capitol. (Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle/Wyoming News Exchange)

The committee’s other draft bill creating a federal land management watchdog position is needed to ensure “continuity from one governor’s administration to the next” regarding potential federal overreach and ongoing negotiations between state, local and federal officials, co-chairman Sen. Brian Boner (R-Douglas) said.

The measure would also include “an incentive program for state employees who go above and beyond in protecting the state’s interests and are offered bonuses and, or, opportunities for promotion,” Boner said. The bill draft will also include language “offering signing bonuses for current federal land management agency employees who would rather work for the state,” he added.

The committee also agreed to submit a letter to the BLM asking that the draft plan be withdrawn and if it is not withdrawn that the public comment period be extended by 120 days. Currently, the deadline to submit comments on the draft EIS is Nov. 16.

The committee will again consider the measures when it meets Nov. 13 in Cheyenne.

Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 25 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily...

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  1. I believe that this is a lot of rhetoric about a non-issue. The BLM enforcing any “rules” out on the actual land that they administer is a joke. You won’t find any BLM personnel actually out on the landscape. They will be too busy going to meetings and stuck in their cubicle on their computer to bother anyone. Their rules and policies might be a nuisence to Industry, but that is what lawyers are for, and they deserve it. Tens of thousands of gas wells near Pinedale have had plenty of negative consequences for wildlife and air quality, just to mention a few. Grazing will always continue on BLM lands, as long as it pays out for the lesees. The legislators that have their underwear in a knot about this, are just dodging real issues, like property taxes, infrastructure, and keeping young people from leaving Wyoming. Much ado about nothing.

  2. Poor fourth graders didn’t get their way so they’re taking their toys and going home. Amateur hour at the legislature!

  3. If you’re law enforcement and you don’t enforce the law on federal lands, you should be fired at a minimum. These Wyoming politicians are afraid that they are losing the public land feud. They’ve been taking advantage of the American public forever.

  4. WyoFile, you are becoming part of the misinformation problem. The draft plan B includes closing miles of roads that the BLM backtracked on after being called out about it. How can such a glaring error be in a document 12 years in the making? What other errors are buried in this document? What errors might remain as the document goes from draft to final? You might not agree with the public comments, I am not sure I agree with some of them, but public comment is critical to this process and to continue to call what you disagree with as misinformation is in and of itself misinformation.

    I guess you are not as obsessed with the facts as you once were.

    1. Public comment is totally critical to the process, yes! Public comment is open 24/7 on the RMP eplanning website. The process helps identify the errors and improves analysis. One of the reasons this behemoth document took 12 years to get out the door is that three different Presidential administrations were involved and wanted changes to their favorite alternatives. As for the roads issue, roads can’t be closed unless there’s a Travel Management Plan in the RMP, which there isn’t; it was removed from the RMP. That info in the RMP about roads is one of those pieces that got missed during review. (Again, this is why public comment is important!) The travel management plan won’t be worked on until after the EIS is well and truly done, and then we all get to comment on the roads plan.

  5. Grossnickle is a Cliven Bundy wanna-be who thinks “this administration” is out to get him. Sure Grossnickle… the Holy Land has erupted in war and Biden is staring at a map of the Rock Springs area, twisting his evil moustache, eager to stop vandalism at petroglyphs. Yeah pal. Can’t wait to hear your tune about federal agencies when there is a massive grassfire.

      1. Maybe they just stop spending federal money in Wyoming, fence off all the federal land and put protection in place (drones and missiles for trespassers) and Wyoming could stand on its own. Wyoming could come up with 5 billion dollars yearly to develop Wyoming’s economy on its own.

  6. One of these days this state will decide to solve an issue thats actually an issue. Not today, but surely one of these days.

  7. You have made many significant misstatements regarding what the RMP actually states. For a critical document that supposedly took 10 years to write, it’s rife with misleading, contradictory and inaccurate information. The BLM’s own words, admitting the contradictions and glaring errors, intentionally vague. Not a word about the massive wild Mustangs problem and mismanagement. Wyoming citizens know what’s best for Wyoming, not some D.C. bureaucrats. Please research your reference materials more diligently. Thanks !

  8. Ridiculous proposals by ridiculous lawmakers, who either don’t understand the process or refuse to participate in it because they don’t get to make the rules. Maybe we should all have the opportunity to decide which laws we choose to abide by. I don’t like property taxes and county commissioners who think they know more about what’s good for our state than its people do. I think our representatives have foregone listening for chance to dictate the narrative to us. And does anyone really think luring feds with signing bonuses, to undermine their former employers is a good idea? This is government not fantasy football.

  9. So, we’re doing nullification now are we, I truly wish my neighbors could escape this fantasy loop they’ve gotten trapped in and get back to their base Wyoming hoarse sense. We’re appointing a non elected land czar to rule the public lands? We’re going to pick and choose which federal laws we’re going to obey? We’re going to bonus bribe employees we like and continue starving those we don’t ? My old dad always told me when looking at politicians if your confused by what the hell is going on “just follow the money “ this set up is designed to move forward their agenda to convert all public lands held in trust for the entire nation to state land that is entirely under their control to do with as they will, reward their friends, punish their enemies, and line someone’s pockets. I think it’s time for these folks in Cheyenne to rejoin the private sector that they’re so in love with and put in some folks that at least claim the want to look out for everybody’s interests.

    1. The Constitution gives the states every right to disobey federal law, e.g. Colorado’s and other states wacky weed law.

  10. Gee, I wonder if the Feds will retaliate by removing Wyoming’s many, many , many subsidies, like, say, for highways. Since they dont have to worry about Wyoming voting for Democrats,, what would they have to lose?

  11. The state says that the Fed’s policy of “to protect wildlife habitat and cultural resources, and increase the acreage that’s off-limits to new rights-of-way for things like maintained roads, power lines and pipeline” +to protect wildlife habitat and cultural resources, and increase the acreage that’s off-limits to new rights-of-way for things like maintained roads, power lines and pipeline& which leaves “plan largely leaving recreational access untouched” is “existential threat to the state’s economy and outdoor culture”???!!! What a joke? The protection of these resources provides incentive to the huge and growing revenues from people visiting the state to see these resources–these revenues are sustainable and growing unlike the fossil fuel industries!

  12. Awe the Wyomingites, once again try to fight off the Feds, holding out their right hand with the stop sign to feign off overreach while holding out there left hand in a cupped position collecting Federal money. We sure send some Dandies to Cheyenne, don’t we!?

  13. What are these people thinking? Do they not realize that this action would take Wyoming DEQ right out of the decision making process?

  14. That is about as stupid a move as it gets. Wyoming once again wins the award for the most conservative, self destructive state in the union.