Gordon: After buying BLM ranch, feds should divest of other lands | Wyoming News
Angus M. Thuermer Jr. WyoFile.com
After buying the Marton Ranch as part of President Joe Biden‘s 30×30 conservation initiative, the federal government should divest itself of some Wyoming assets, Gov. Mark Gordon said Wednesday.
In calling for some divestment, Gordon joined the state’s congressional delegation seeking similar action following the 35,670-acre purchase made earlier this summer. U.S. Senators John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis and U.S. Representative Liz Cheney have asked Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to “neutralize” the federal purchase of private property by “identifying equivalent disposal opportunities elsewhere in the state.” “.
In an interview in which he explained the purported legal shortcomings of the purchase and the state’s appeal of the transaction to the Department of the Interior, Gordon said a reduction in the federal footprint is “what I would like to see”.
People also read…
The BLM owns several “inholdings” that are essentially landlocked by private property and therefore earmarked for potential divestiture, Gordon said. “To the extent that we can help that process, we end up with a net gain of federal lands…that’s a good thing.”
Wyoming’s administrative appeal regarding the purchase does not call for cancellation of the transaction. Rather, he’s asking for a referral to the BLM so the agency can “adequately review mandatory statutory criteria” and “engage state agencies, local governments, and the public, as needed,” the agency says. call.
The Conservation Purchase continues an effort to protect the North Platte River, a prized fishery that is considered one of the best trout streams in the state. The purchase, which will provide new access to the river while protecting nearly 8.8 miles of shoreline from development, was the eighth on the waterway, the agency said in an email.
All previous purchases “have received strong support from elected officials across the state,” the BLM said.
From fiscal year 2003 to fiscal year 2018, the BLM preserved more than 4.9 miles of waterfront, spending $9.3 million to acquire 1,551 private acres, the agency said. That doesn’t include the Marton Ranch, which cost $21 million.
“This [Marton] The project has undergone National Environmental Policy Act review and has been made publicly available on the BLM’s ePlanning website,” the BLM wrote.
“Elected officials were made aware of this significant acquisition (without disclosing the name of the willing seller) nearly a year ago,” the email reads. “[A] the local commissioner and the governor’s office were informed in May.
The BLM will manage the Marton Ranch, its biggest ever purchase in Wyoming, as it does other lands in the area south of Casper. It will continue to allow grazing and mineral exploration, but public access will increase for hunting, fishing and other activities.
Gordon’s administrative appeal claims the BLM violated federal environmental and planning laws, in part by failing to involve state and local governments and the public.
“There was no consulting agency process with Game and Fish,” Gordon told WyoFile. There was no contact with the state’s Bureau of Lands and Investments, which was “taken by surprise”, he said.
As for consultation with the Natrona County Board of Commissioners, “there really wasn’t either,” Gordon said.
It is “erroneous” for the federal government to think that it can “put [the Marton Ranch] in the federal domain without public scrutiny,” the governor said.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars used to purchase the ranch — part of a cooperative effort with the Conservation Fund and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation — “were meant to be subject to Federal Land guiding laws. Management Policy Act,” Gordon said. This law “requires that these funds not just be used in a whimsical way for what bureaucrats think they should be used for,” Gordon said.
Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative, which promotes the voluntary conservation of 30% of the nation’s land and water by 2030, has put some of those spending controls “in question,” Gordon said. The conservation aspect of the America the Beautiful initiative is known as 30×30.
In the Marton case, federal funds “were used by the Bureau of Land Management in an opaque manner for a personal agenda,” Gordon charged; “To perform 30×30 without public comment.”
Limiting federal government holdings in Wyoming is good “because we already have half of our destiny tied to what the federal government decides we want to do,” Gordon said. Federal ownership of about 48% of the state has “undermined our economy” and troubled the state with other related issues, he said.
Additionally, the BLM’s preservation and conservation goals could have been more surgically achieved with state involvement, Gordon said, particularly with respect to the North Platte fisheries. The governor’s appeal states that the BLM “violated the National Environmental Policy Act when its environmental analysis stopped at the water’s edge.”
In the river itself, wildlife managers are troubled by increasing pressure on trout, an increase in catch-and-release injuries, and an aging fish population.
Increased access could exacerbate concerns to the point that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department could impose new restrictions or closures. That will make Wyoming the bad cop, Gordon suggested.
“We are now stuck, just like we are with the Endangered Species Act and grizzly bears, we are now stuck being the face of what the federal government is forcing us to do,” Gordon said.
Wyoming’s statement of reasons filed with the Interior Land Appeals Board on July 15 said the agency had used a more open process in past acquisitions in other states. He criticizes the BLM for secrecy; “He prepared the decision clandestinely,” the call said.
Increased access to the river could increase the danger of aquatic invasive species infecting the waterway, the appeal says. The BLM drafted a “three-sentence cumulative impact analysis” without citing any supporting data, the appeal says. Finally, the BLM failed to consider five of the seven criteria it is required to consider when spending money on land and water conservation, the appeal says.
WyoFile is an independent, nonprofit news organization focused on the people, places, and politics of Wyoming.