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Opinion by Donald A. Simpson

BLM Accomplishes Goals Through Partnerships

By Donald A. Simpson, BLM Wyoming State Director

As State Director for the Bureau of Land Management, I’ve run across a lot of challenging work. What I’ve found over the years is that the best way to get anything done is by building partnerships and working together. I am proud to say that many examples of this exist right here in Wyoming.

Our efforts with the state, industry and landowners to protect the Greater sage grouse have received a lot of attention.  It’s an excellent partnership and other states are looking at the Wyoming partnership as an example. We have many other projects that aren’t in the spotlight but are also important.

Our Worland Field Office teamed up with partners to treat more than 200 acres of encroaching Utah juniper south of Meeteetse. This treatment was aimed at improving riparian areas and sage grouse habitat. Partners include the LU Ranch, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Bighorn Basin Sage Grouse Local Working Group and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. 

While juniper can be an important habitat element for many wildlife species, as the dominance increases, the habitat benefits decrease. Once the junipers are removed, more water is available for desirable species, especially in the riparian areas. BLM, TNC and the LU Ranch monitor to see how the treated area responds.

The Bear Divide Coordinated Management Plan Steering Committee is another good example of numerous parties coming together for a common goal. This group was formed to set goals, list actions and develop actions for roughly 491,000 acres of checkerboard pattern of mixed ownership in 11 grazing allotments in southwest Wyoming. The partners include government agencies, grazing permittees, wildlife advocates and those with mineral interests.

The hard work of this diverse group has resulted in significant range improvements, including six water pipelines placed to draw cattle off of riparian areas; three prescribed burns encompassing about 30,000 acres; 60 miles of pasture have been fenced; and spring and reservoir development improvements.

BLM’s Kemmerer Field Office, in cooperation with Lincoln County Conservation District, the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the University of Wyoming, sponsored a two-day Cooperative Rangeland Management Monitoring Workshop in the Rock Creek Grazing Allotment in Lincoln County.

The workshop discussed how agencies and cooperators can work together to collect monitoring data. Some 30 permittees gained on-the-ground, hands-on experience in how to set monitoring objectives, identify where to establish transects and implement common monitoring techniques. The goal is to use these methods on private land to improve rangeland health and productivity. We also conduct joint cooperative monitoring with permittees and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and State Lands.

Every office works with counties and local weed and pest groups on invasive weed issues. Last year, working with these partners, we treated 16,101 acres. We also worked closely with the State and private landowners on hazardous fuel reduction. Over 20,000 acres were treated last year either by prescribed fire, chemical or mechanical means.

Another important partnership is the Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative (WLCI). This year, the WLCI, working with partners, was instrumental in continuing development of long-term, science-based efforts to assess and enhance aquatic and terrestrial habitats at a landscape scale in southwest Wyoming, while facilitating responsible development through local collaboration and partnerships. These activities were accomplished through numerous coordination meetings, field trips and work sessions to help develop and implement projects and identify local project development team priorities.

The WLCI funded a total of 38 projects in fiscal year 2012. Some examples include: over 1,400 acres of prescribed burns and mechanical treatments promoted a more natural vegetative community; installed over 17 miles of wildlife friendly fencing, enclosures or modifications; added an additional Highway 789 underpass five miles north of Baggs to improve mule deer migration; and over 27,000 acres were treated for invasive weed species. WLCI continues to serve as a model for working together to accomplish big projects.

I want to point out that all of this work couldn’t have been accomplished to the degree of success we’re seeing by any single person or organization. Rather these successes were achieved through building partnerships and working together. Another benefit is the working relationships that are developed or strengthened as a result, which are vital for tackling other common challenges together.

I want to thank all of those people and organizations who have built partnerships and worked with the BLM here in Wyoming over the years to improve public land. I encourage those people and organizations to continue this relationship into the future. I also want to extend an invitation to others to join us and help explore new opportunities as we continue down this fruitful and mutually beneficial path.