Green River Star -

By Stephanie Thompson
People Editor 

BLM responds to county letter


January 10, 2018

The Bureau of Land Management responded to the Sweetwater County Commissioners letter about the removal of juniper trees on Little Mountain with a letter of its own.

After reading this letter, Commissioner Wally Johnson spoke to the issue at the Commissioners recent meeting.

“I’m very disappointed, not surprised,” Johnson said.

In December, the Commissioners sent a letter to the BLM letting the BLM know they felt the money being spent to remove the juniper trees on the west side of Little Mountain would be better spent on removing the dead and dying trees on the top of Little Mountain.

The letter also stated they wanted the BLM to stop the removal of the trees and focus its efforts on proper fire management on Pine and Little mountains.

On Dec. 27, the Commissioners received a letter from Mary Jo Rugwell, BLM Wyoming director.

“And she did just exactly what I expected they’d do -- defend their actions,” Johnson said.

The letter from Rugwell states she discussed the project with the Rock Springs Field Office and the High Desert District to respond to the letter.

“The RSFO has been completing a variety of fuels management projects in the Little Mountain and Pine Mountain areas to reduce the risk of wildlife, while improving habitat for big game and greater sage grouse,” the letter states.

According to the letter, the removal of the trees helps the sage grouse population.

The letter also included a list a projects, including Lousy George, which targets the removal and prescribed burning of 2,100 acres of juniper on the west side of Little Mountain.

Since 2015, 1,383 acres of juniper have been mechanically thinned and piled and 540 acres of the piles have been removed by prescribed fire, while 843 acres are in piles and ready to be burned this winter when conditions are right.

The letter also addresses the pine beetle project, which is still in the planning phase. The letter states, “At present, it is unclear if any fuels management funding will be available for the implementation of their proposed treatments.” However, the BLM will request funding even though fuels management funding has been limited in recent years.

“I’m not saying I know what we should do at this point,” Johnson said. “I’m disappointed. If you really look at what we did, the five of us signed a letter protesting what they are doing on Little Mountain. The five of us represent everyone in Sweetwater County and they are still not listening to what we are saying.”

“I’ve said many times to the BLM ‘this land is our land and they are nothing more than an administrator of our lands and they should listen to us;’ and they’re not,” Johnson said.

Johnson suggested the group go around Rugwell and send a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in Washington D.C., about the issue from Sweetwater County itself or if the county should try and get the Coalition of Local Governments involved.

Johnson said by the next meeting he should have a better idea of which direction the board should go in.

“We cannot stand idly by and let them do whatever they want to do with these lands,” he said.

Commissioner John Kolb said he was in favor of sending a letter to Zinke on behalf of Sweetwater County.


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