Upper Green on Fed list for high-priority Land Rationalization effort
Department of Interior proposes land acquisition efforts in 11 states, including Wyoming
by Pinedale Online!
February 18, 2010
Fox News posted an exclusive story on their website on Thursday, Feb. 18, about an internal Department of Interior (DOI) draft document which shows proposals for land acquisitions into the Bureau of Land Managementís National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS). The proposal includes land in the Upper Green River Valley and Red Desert of Wyoming.
The article is based on what is claimed to be a leaked internal DOI draft document which is marked "Internal Draft - NOT FOR RELEASE". The document was apparently leaked to a Utah congressman and obtained by Fox News. The article contains a link to Attachments 4, 5 & 6 from the document, pages 15-21, but it was not clear what the original DOI document was.
The DOI document lists specific areas in western states (Montana, New Mexico, California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Wyoming) it proposes as good candidates for National Monument designation under the Antiquities Act, Conservation designations and land consolidation efforts.
The Fox News article states, "More than a dozen pristine landscapes, wildlife habitats and scenic rivers in 11 Western states, some larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, are under consideration by the Obama administration to become America's newest National Monuments -- a decision the administration can make unilaterally without local input or congressional approval."
Included in the list of "High Priority Land-Rationalization Efforts" is a proposal to spend over $2.3 billion ($2,383,260,000.00) to acquire 397,210 acres of private ranch land in the Upper Green River Valley to conserve "Ö large private ranches that are located at the base of the Wyoming and Wind River Ranges in the Upper Green River Valley to benefit sage grouse, big game species and the path of the pronghorn antelope." The document states an average asking price per acre of $6,000 for land in the Upper Green River Valley.
The Upper Green River Valley project proposal is listed under the section entitled "High Priority Land-Rationalization Efforts" for consolidation of checkerboard land ownership. This section states "The BLM proposes a program of land consolidation for its checkerboarded lands, particularly in Nevada, Oregon, California, Wyoming, and Utah." The proposal is to implement an initiative over the next 10 years at an annual expenditure of approximately $5 million. The proposal also has the option of using land exchanges or sales "to dispose of lands within checkerboard areas consistent with land use plans as it attempts to meet our management goals for a specific area or region." While the document mentions the option of the BLM selling some federal land, which would eliminate the management hassles of checkerboard ownership, none of the project descriptions include options for disposing of isolated land parcels in the project areas. All of the projects involve the federal government making purchases to acquiring private and state land.
Sublette County contains 3,168,086 acres. 19% (596,237 acres) is private. 76% is federal (BLM 40%-1,272,968 acres, National Forest 36%-1,142,994 acres) and 4% is state ownership (122,999 acres). This initiative proposes to purchase an additional 397,210 acres of private land in the Upper Green River Valley and bring it into federal ownership. It would reduce private land ownership in Sublette County to 199,027 acres, 6% of the total county acreage, and increase federal land ownership to 53% of the total county acreage.
The DOI document also lists the Red Desert area of Wyoming as a potential Conservation Designation, on a list of "Areas worthy of protection that are ineligible for Monument Designation and unlikely to receive legislative protection in the near term." It gives this description, "The Red Desertís rich landscape offers spectacular desert structures and wildlife habitat. The Desert provides world class pronghorn and elk hunting; the area is home to the largest desert elk herd in North America and the migration path for 50,000 pronghorn antelope. Early explorers, pioneers, and Mormon settlers used the unique features in the Red Desert as landmarks to guide them Westward. The Pony Express Trail traverses the northern section of the Red Desert. One of the unique features in the Red Desert is Adobe Town, an astonishing and remote set of badlands and geologic formations. Visitors can see fossils of long-extinct mammals, reptiles and invertebrates." The Red Desert is located in south central Wyoming (north of I-80, mostly east of US 191, and south of Hwy 28, including the Jack Morrow Hills, Killpecker Sand Dunes, and Boarís Tusk. The majority of the Red Desert is public land managed by the Rock Springs and Rawlins field offices of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
The DOI initiative document also includes a section discussing acquisition of land acquisitions, exchanges, sales, easements and cooperative agreements to provide public access along missing segments of historic properties along National Historic Trails, National Scenic Trails and to protect "critically important historic sites, segments, and settings along national historic trails." In Sublette County, this could potentially impact private landowners along the Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, California Trail, Sublette Cutoff, Lander Cutoff and Pony Express historic trail routes. The proposal is for a budget of about $7 million per year over a 10-year period for an "aggressive willing seller program along the BLMís National Scenic and Historic Trails."
Read the entire article here: EXCLUSIVE: Obama Eyes Western Land for National Monuments, Angering Some FoxNews.com, 2/18/10, by William La Jeunesse