Gordon: After buying the BLM farm, the Feds should divest the other lands

After buying Marton’s ranch under President Joe Biden’s 30×30 conservation initiative, the federal government should divest itself of some Wyoming properties, 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. US Senators John Barrasso, Cynthia Loomis and US Representative Liz Cheney have asked Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to “neutralize” the federal purchase of private property by “identifying equivalent disposal opportunities elsewhere in the state.”

In an interview explaining the purchase’s alleged legal shortcomings and the state’s appeal to the Department of the Interior, Gordon said reducing the federal impact is “what I’d like to see.”

Gordon said that the BLM has several landlocked “properties” that are primarily privately held, and thus have been flagged for potential disposal. “The degree to which we can help this process along until we end up with no net profit from federal lands…and that’s a good thing.”

A Wyoming administrative appeal of a purchase does not require cancellation of the transaction. Instead, he seeks to return pretrial detention to the BLM so that the agency can “adequately consider mandatory statutory standards” and “involve state and local government agencies and the public, as required,” the appeal states.

Conservation purchases continue in 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 a new outlet to the river while protecting approximately 8.8 miles of riverbank from development, was the eighth on the waterway, the agency said in an email.

The BLM said all previous purchases had “received strong support from the country’s elected officials”.

From fiscal 2003 to fiscal 2018, BLM maintained more than 4.9 miles of river, spending $9.3 million to acquire 1,551 private acres, the agency said. This does not include Marton Ranch, which cost $21 million.

“[W]We already have half of our destiny tied to what the federal government decides we want to do.”

Governor Mark Gordon

“this is [Marton] The project has undergone National Environmental Policy Act review and has been publicly available on the BLM’s ePlanning website,” the BLM wrote.

“This massive acquisition (without disclosing the name of the willing seller) has been made known to elected officials for nearly a year,” the email reads. “[A] The local commissioner and the governor’s office were briefed in May.”

BLM will operate Marton Ranch, its largest-ever purchase in Wyoming, and also operate 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.

Do Not Enter?

Gordon’s administrative appeal alleges that the BLM violated federal environmental and planning laws, in part by failing to engage state and local governments and the public.

“There was no agency advisory process with Game and Fish,” Gordon told WyoFile. He said there had been no contact with the State Lands and Investments Office, which was “surprising”.

Regarding consultation with the Natrona County Board of Commissioners, Gordon said “there was also nothing there.”

It’s a ‘mistake’ that the federal government thinks it can ‘put up’ [the Marton Ranch] The governor said.

Gordon said the Conservation Fund dollars for land and water used to purchase the farm — in a collaborative effort with the Conservation Fund and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation — “were supposed to be subject to the guidelines of the Federal Land Administration Policy Act.” The law, Gordon said, “requires that this money not be oddly used for whatever bureaucrats think it should be used for.”

Gordon said the Biden’s America Beautiful Initiative, which promotes the voluntary conservation of 30% of the country’s land and water by 2030, has put some of those spending controls “into question.” The conservation aspect of the America Beautiful initiative is known as 30 x 30.

In the Marton case, Gordon said the federal funds were “used by the Office of Land Management in a vague manner for a personal agenda.” “For 30 x 30 effect without general comment.”

No federal increase

Limiting federal government holdings in Wyoming is a good thing, Gordon said, “because we already have half of our destiny tied to what the federal government decides we want to do.” He said federal ownership of about 48% of the state “has hurt our economy” and alarmed the state through other related issues.

Furthermore, the BLM’s conservation and conservation goals could have been achieved more surgically with state involvement, Gordon said, particularly with regard to the North Platte fisheries. The governor’s appeal states that BLM “violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it halted its environmental analysis at the water’s edge.”

Fishermen float near the public access ramp in Losby on the North Platte River, June 20, 2022 (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

In the river itself, wildlife managers are concerned about the increasing pressure on trout, increased catch and release injuries, and a large fish population.

Increased access may exacerbate concerns to the point that Wyoming Game and Fish Management may impose new restrictions or closures. Gordon suggested that would make Wyoming a bad cop.

“Now we’re stuck, like we’re with the Endangered Species Act and grizzly bears, we’re now stuck in the face of what the federal government is forcing us to do,” Gordon said.

A Wyoming statement of reasons submitted to the Internal Land Appeals Board on July 15 said the agency had used a more open process in previous acquisitions in other states. BLM is criticized for secrecy; “I prepared the decision in secret,” the appeal said.

The appeal says more access to the river could increase the risk of invasive species infesting the waterway. The BLM appeal wrote a “three-sentence cumulative effect analysis” without citing any data to support it. Finally, the BLM did not take five of the seven required criteria into account when spending land and water conservation funds, according to the appeal.

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