SUBLETTE COUNTY – Field trip dates for the Shoal Creek and Scab Creek wilderness study areas (WSA) were set at the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative’s Sublette advisory committee meeting last Wednesday, May 3.
The Sublette committee firmed up two consecutive days, Wednesday and Thursday, July 12-13, for its Shoal Creek WSA field trip with a Bondurant town hall meeting scheduled for the evening of July 13.
As for exploring the Scab Creek WSA, committee members decided to experience that area’s more rugged landscapes at the south end, figuring it might be simplest to access higher overlooks on Wednesday, Sept. 6.
Committee member Bill Lanning (motorized recreation) said Dee Morris, who was present, would facilitate access to the north end via Mountain Springs Ranch. A Boulder town hall meeting will be planned for the evening of the one-day field trip, they agreed.
“For Scab Creek, the north end can be done motorized but around the south end, you need horses or by foot,” Lanning said.
Monte Skinner (non-motorized recreation) asked Morris if he felt the Scab Creek WSA could be “covered in one day.”
“It’s a matter of a few hours (for the north end),” Morris said. “For the south end, I don’t know what you want to do for access.”
He and Lanning talked about a very rough trail, deciding that one overlook with a “knob” would provide the best views of the southern portion.
The Wyoming Public Lands Initiative (WPLI) is a statewide effort by the Wyoming County Commissioners Association (WCCA) to form stakeholder/ citizen committees in counties that contain WSAs designated more than 30 years ago by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or Forest Service (FS).
Currently eight counties participate in the WPLI effort to gather recommendations for Wyoming’s long-languishing WSAs. WCCA stated the goal as creating a legislative package for the congressional delegation to shepherd through both the U.S. House and Senate.
Co-chair Dan Smitherman (who represents conservation) suggested an overnight horseback pack trip into the Shoal Creek WSA; fellow co-chair Coke Lander (ranching/ agriculture) said he couldn’t camp out overnight because of daily chores.
The field trips are meant to be open to the public, which brought a public comment from Dave Hohl: “If you are having an overnight, you have to figure out how to recommend they (interested public) handle it.”
Julia Stuble, on the Fremont County advisory committee, said public attendance for a Dubois field trip “was really robust” and provided a good networking opportunity.
The committee decided to spend one day in the northern portion and one day in the lower part, with Riling Draw or Fisherman Creek as possible access points. Although the WSA also borders Teton County, that advisory committee indicated the Sublette group can work out the Shoal Creek proposals.
Sublette member Mike Henn (conservation district) and Smitherman agreed to work out the Shoal Creek WSA field trip logistics. Committee members Mike Smith (energy), Dave Bell (general public) and Mike Crosson (sportsmen) and the rest then discussed getting horses and gear together.
Henn and Landers also said they will meet with FS grazing permittees who will be turning out cattle on the Shoal Creek WSA’s grazing allotments, and possibly other FS permittees.
Another consideration is the effects of last summer’s Cliff Creek Fire, which spread over the WSA into the Gros Ventre Wilderness.
County planner and liaison Bart Myers said he would schedule the Bondurant and Boulder town hall meetings and post them on the group’s website at www.sublettewpli.org.
In other business, WPLI facilitator Steve Smutko showed the group a draft flyer about the Sublette WPLI committee, its purpose and how to contact the members. At the April 5 meeting, Bell had asked for printed materials he could provide to people at meetings and get-togethers.
“That will be very, very helpful to hand out,” Bell said, asking for 500 copies.
Smitherman asked Smutko to post comments submitted to the committee’s website, which could generate more feedback.
Smutko then began guiding the committee through “potential options for management and designation of Lake Mountain WSA,” where the committee and public toured last fall, meeting afterward at Marbleton Town Hall.
“Wilderness is multiple use still, whether it’s designated or released,” he said. “Grazing is an allowed use at all WSAs and motorized access for snowmobiles is at 1984 levels.”
With “ general and some specific ideas” on the Lake Mountain WSA’s list of options, Smutko and the committee began narrowing them down under categories of wildlife, grazing, forest management, oil/gas/mining, motorized access, non-motorized access, water resources, development/ structures and general management.
Email comments or questions to the Sublette committee at [email protected]
Information about all three WSAs including maps, history, wildlife and habitats, as well as Sublette WPLI agendas, minutes and working documents are available to the public and comments can be submitted at the website, www.sublettewpli.org.