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A community-based coalition calls for conservation measures to safeguard this one-of-a-kind recreational destination
The Greater Little Mountain Coalition released a film today highlighting local support for the conservation of its namesake area, just south of Rock Springs. The film features seven Sweetwater County residents expressing their views on the importance of the Greater Little Mountain Area, known by many as a recreational paradise for hunting, fishing, and outdoor activities.
Spanning from desert badlands to high mountain aspen and conifer groves, this area is home to productive trout streams and some of the most sought-after big game hunting opportunities in the state. Eastman’s Hunting Journal regularly ranks the area’s deer and elk units among its top five Wyoming hunts. Since 1990, conservation organizations and state and federal agencies have spent more than $6 million in on-the-ground projects to enhance and maintain these resources.
The majority of the Greater Little Mountain Area is public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management’s Rock Springs field office, which is in the process of revising the plan that guides management decisions for energy development, recreation, livestock grazing, wildlife, and other resources. The Greater Little Mountain Coalition has been actively engaged in the planning process and has proposed an approach that would ensure the region’s incredible fish and wildlife resources and open space are managed in a balanced way.
“The Coalition has been advocating for the Greater Little Mountain Area since 2008. With input from local hunters, anglers, and decision-makers, we submitted a proposal to be included in the draft Rock Springs Resource Management Plan,” said Josh Coursey, CEO of the Muley Fanatic Foundation. “This film shows the tremendous local support for our plan and we expect decision makers in D.C. to give it the serious consideration it deserves.”
For generations the Greater Little Mountain Area has been a favorite for sportsmen and sportswomen and a priority for conservation-minded hunters and anglers. The new film reveals the feelings that this area inspires in locals, as well as the thousands of others who have had the privilege to visit.
“Energy means a lot to Wyoming, and so does being able to hunt and fish in my backyard,” said Monte Morlock of the United Steelworkers. “It is possible to balance our outdoor way of life with development, and that’s exactly what we need to do in the Little Mountain area.”
The film also includes Sweetwater County commissioner Wally Johnson. “How much are we expected to produce and what are we expected to give up? Greater Little Mountain is an area I’m not willing to give up,” said Johnson.
In addition to Morlock, Coursey, and Johnson, the film also features Bruce Pivic of Infinity Power and Controls, local sportswomen Robin and Jessica Robison, and rancher Jackson Ramsay.
The Greater Little Mountain Coalition is an assembly of sportsmen conservation organizations, union members, miners, and more than 2,500 hunters, anglers and recreationists who seek to find balanced solutions that ensures the regions great hunting, fishing, and open space is conserved for future generations while supporting responsible energy development. The Coalition partners include: Bowhunters of Wyoming, Muley Fanatic Foundation, Southwest Labor Council, Steelworkers Union 13214, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited and Wyoming Wildlife Federation.
Once determined to proceed with a thorough environmental review of an unpopular proposed mine, the agency now only seems willing to pass the buck to the state
It is a truism that politicians try to have it both ways, telling constituents and donors just what they want to hear while their actions tell a different story. We are seeing this play out in Minnesota, where Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters have been fighting to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from a proposed copper nickel mine.
In this case, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made and broken commitments concerning an important environmental review of the proposed mine, which has limited the use of science, the public’s input, and the ability of federal land management agencies to affect the outcome of the project.
In 2017, Secretary Perdue committed to a two-year environmental review of copper nickel mining upstream of the Boundary Waters during his congressional testimony, saying, “We are determined to proceed in that effort and let it run its course. No decision will be made prior to the conclusion of that [review].” But 20 months into the 24-month study, Secretary Perdue cancelled the study, calling it “a roadblock to mining exploration.” The BLM and USDA then renewed the contested leases in 2019, which cleared the way for mining company Twin Metals to submit a formal mine plan of operation to state and federal officials.
In a long back and forth with the USDA and U.S. Forest Service, Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters and other conservation groups requested in May 2019 that the study be completed prior to the renewal of any mineral leases in the Boundary Waters watershed. That request was ignored. Now, it seems that Perdue is suggesting that it is up to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz to stop the mine from being built and that he could do so without an environmental study.
This is not the case: The Forest Service is required to lead on all environmental reviews and NEPA analyses of projects on federal land, in this case the Superior National Forest. The former chief of the Forest Service understood this well when he withheld consent for the renewal of these leases in 2016. Secretary Perdue seems to understand the risk the project poses to the Boundary Waters, and he originally expressed real concern for making sure no harm came to the habitat.
Sportsmen and women want more from federal decision-makers than acts of good faith toward conservation goals. Instead, we’re seeing a disturbing trend of leaving the states with total responsibility for any real decisions concerning environmental review, permitting, and the protection of important fish and wildlife resources.
Twin Metals is due to submit a mine plan of operation in the coming months without public input or the level of study that would have been conducted in the cancelled mineral withdrawal study. Their proposed project on the South Kawishiwi River has the potential to pollute the Boundary Waters, Voyageur’s National Park, and Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park. The remote nature of these public lands and waters makes remediation or cleanup of any pollution essentially impossible.
And the fundamental question the cancelled study was meant to answer has never been answered: Is this the right place for a copper mine?
Secretary Perdue followed up his statements in Minnesota with an op-ed in a local paper, writing, “I’m confident any plan approved to move forward would preserve the high-quality fishing, wildlife viewing, recreational opportunities and wilderness character that Minnesotans and visitors from around the world enjoy in the Boundary Waters.” Hunters, anglers, and paddlers who use the Boundary Waters do not share Secretary Perdue’s confidence.
More than 180,000 people weighed in during the Forest Service’s environmental review—the one that was halted before it could be finished—and thousands of Minnesotans turned out to public listening sessions across the state. The USDA could restore the public’s confidence by committing to completing the cancelled study and halting all mining approvals, including any federal permitting related to a mine plan of operation, until the study is released publicly.
Not all development makes sense, especially where fish and wildlife actually provide a greater value to citizens who love to hunt and fish, but also to our economy. This was the exact reason that President Theodore Roosevelt initially set aside the Superior National Forest in 1909 as a place to be protected for future generations. The Boundary Waters and Superior National Forest contain 20 percent of the fresh water in the entire 191-million-acre National Forest System and a quarter of the freshwater streams in the agency’s entire Eastern Region.
To uphold Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation legacy, we must urge our elected officials to defend our public land and water, or future generations will pay the price for our inaction.
Whit Fosburgh is the president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a national nonprofit working to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.
Spencer Shaver is the conservation director for Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters, which works to protect the integrity of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and its watersheds for huntable and fishable populations of fish and wildlife, now and forever through advocacy and education. You can take action to protect the Boundary Waters by contacting your elected officials here.
This story also ran on the Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters website.
Featuring MeatEater’s Rinella and Putelis, the how-to on deboning a deer in the field helps hunters adhere to new regulations and avoid transporting parts of deer carcasses that could carry chronic wasting disease
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership joins several of the nation’s other leading conservation and hunting organizations in launching a new how-to video on deboning a deer in the field. This helps to prevent bringing home parts of the carcass that could carry chronic wasting disease.
Arming hunters with this information and preventing the transportation of certain deer parts that can contain CWD prions—including the brain, spinal cord, lymph nodes, and spleen—is a critical part of the overall strategy behind stopping the spread of this 100-percent fatal disease in deer, elk, and moose. Many states have recently implemented restrictions on the importation of harvested deer bones and soft tissue as part of a CWD response plan.
“Hunters want to be part of CWD solutions and we’re already being asked, in some cases, to change the way we hunt so as not to perpetuate what is already a rapidly growing epidemic in our wild deer herds,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the TRCP. “That’s why we thought it was important to put this resource out there and make the direct connection between the simple act of deboning your deer in the field and slowing the spread of chronic wasting disease. It’s not much to ask when you consider that the future of deer hunting is at stake.”
The 9-minute educational video was produced by the team at MeatEater, features Steven Rinella and Janis Putelis, and has the support of the National Deer Alliance, Mule Deer Foundation, Quality Deer Management Association, Archery Trade Association, and National Shooting Sports Foundation.
“We’re grateful for the expertise of the MeatEater team and the support of our partners, who will help carry this message to millions of deer hunters across the country,” says Fosburgh.
The TRCP is also asking sportsmen and women to support federal investments in CWD research and testing, to help states respond to this disease. Take action here.
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More