With great fishing, hunting and recreation opportunities, Sweetwater County in southwestern Wyoming is a paradise for Americans seeking to enjoy the outdoors and the wide open spaces of our federal public lands.
The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge contain world-class fishing opportunities and our federal lands provide outstanding hunting opportunities — especially within the vicinity of the Pine and Little Mountain areas south of Rock Springs. Additionally, these open spaces provide unlimited hiking, recreational vehicle use, mountain biking and other outdoor pursuits.
These federally managed public lands help support our thriving tourism and hunting and fishing economy. In fact, in Sweetwater County, travel and tourism generates an estimated $177 million. Hunting and fishing together generate approximately 25 million dollars in annual revenues.
As a lifelong Sweetwater County resident and four-term county commissioner, I understand how we have benefited from our public lands. Mineral wealth from oil, gas, trona, coal and uranium forms the basis of our economy. It has provided our residents employment with good wages, high quality public services, and a place to hunt, fish and recreate with their families.
This is why I, and my fellow county commissioners, believe it is important to ensure our federal public lands are managed for multiple use in a manner that balances mineral development interests with environmental and recreational opportunities.
To achieve this balance, the Sweetwater County Board of County Commissioners strives to work in a positive manner with our federal land management partners through the environmental review process known as the National Environmental Policy Act.
We believe to succeed in this endeavor we must continually strive to understand our community needs, participate in all levels of the NEPA process and foster excellent working relationships with our federal partners.
Sweetwater County is currently involved as a cooperating agency with the BLM to develop a revised Resource Management Plan for the BLM Rock Springs Field Office. Within this RMP, to balance competing lands uses with stakeholders, Sweetwater County supports utilizing a Master Leasing Plan, especially within the Pine Mountain and Little Mountain areas.
We believe a Master Leasing Plan provides elected officials, sportsmen, energy companies, landowners, ranchers and others the opportunity to collaborate to conserve our wildlife, scenic and recreational values while ensuring that agricultural use and energy development have the opportunity to continue.
Many might criticize the federal agencies for not involving the public or local communities more, but, for Sweetwater County, we have found the agencies to be transparent in providing many opportunities for public clarification and comment especially through collaborative planning tools like the Master Leasing Plan.
In Sweetwater County, we strive to put differences aside as we work together to develop plans for our future that protect wide open space, provide hunting and fishing and other recreational opportunities and ensure access for responsible energy development.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has said he wants the BLM to be a good neighbor and we have expressed the same to him. We look forward to working with the BLM and Zinke to continue multiple use management and to keep our open spaces available for the enjoyment of all citizens.
Wally Johnson is a County Commissioner for Sweetwater County, which includes Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Greater Little Mountain Area, Devil’s Playground, Adobe Town and other pristine public lands. His father was an immigrant coal miner and worked in the underground coal mines of Rock Springs. Johnson has spent countless hours exploring, hunting and fishing all over Sweetwater County.