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15 Mile Basin and the BLM Plan

There is a struggle going on over our federal lands in the Bighorn Basin.  The Bureau of Land Management is taking public comments on their new draft-plan.  This plan will set the guidelines for the next 20 years of land use.  And the struggle, as I see it, is between immediate short-term gratification and greed, and open pristine lands for our wildlife and recreational and contemplative uses for human beings.

The politicians and the oil and gas companies would like the entire Bighorn Basin open to development for the next twenty years.  And as we all have seen, once that open space is gone, its marred forever.  An alternative plan of the BLM’s is for a compromise that protects and makes more pristine areas off-limits, but allows exploration in other areas.

One of these fantastic areas is called 15 mile basin, an area that right now is the largest contiguous space in the basin with no oil/gas leases.  I’d never been there and the Wyoming Outdoor Council and the GYC were sponsoring an overnight with a walk the next day with Rick Dunne, a native seed farmer.

Our leader Rick Dunne

Besides a lot of fun and meeting new people, the area was quite incredible.  Rick mostly explained the geology of the region and the Bighorn Basin in general.  First we spent some time in  Gooseberry Badlands Scenic walk-through.  I’d been there once before, but today the river was running, making this a truly magical area.

Gooseberry creek

Then Rick took us on a 14 mile drive on a 2 track near Squaw Teats, with a quarter mile hike to an overlook.  From there the basin stretched in all its colors and buttes as far as the eye could see without any roads, oil fields, or human structures.  Rick told us that this area was probably rarely seen nor accessible because of the hiking and lack of water.  It was strikingly beautiful.

The Basin--millions of years old

Many people don’t even know about BLM lands.  In the early 1900’s, when the National Parks and National Forests were being created, the Bureau of Land Management was sort of everything left over.  In those early years timber was what was of most interest to a growing country and so the National Forests were created to save our timberlands.  BLM lands usually have high and low desert communities.  These lands have their own beauty and solitude, with delicate ecosystems and unique wildlife.  These lands belong to all of us, just like our Parks and National Forests.  They are not the property of a few commissioners nor of the oil and gas industries.

Because you as an American citizen own these lands, even if you don’t live in the area, you certainly can comment on the proposed draft.  In fact, those comments from the public are really what shapes the plan.  I came to live in Wyoming because I spent every summer hiking in the Wind River Mountains outside of Pinedale.  I wanted to move to that area, until the Jonas Field, a massive oil/gas field.  Now the Pinedale area has more ozone level alerts than Los Angeles (where I grew up.  Pinedale, Wy has more smog than L.A.!!??).

Here is a link

15 Mile Basin overlook

to help you see the BLM plan and comment.  We have till July 20 to have our voices heard.

A Pronghorn struggles to find a place to go under a fence that is not wildlife friendly on BLM lands. He will be greatly impacted by oil/gas fields, new roads and fencing for development.

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