SUBLETTE COUNTY – The Shoal Creek Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is a “picture-perfect” example of beautiful landscapes that can provide many uses for many different interests, according to the Sublette advisory committee for the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative (WPLI).
Committee members and public in ATVs and on horseback spent two days in July getting a glimpse of the WSA from Riling Draw and Fisherman Creek in Hoback Basin.
The Shoal Creek WSA is one of three in Sublette County that are being reviewed by the local committee of eight representing different countrywide interests, with hopes of other county committees joining their updated designation proposals to Congress as a legislative package.
Each committee member present at the Aug. 2 monthly meeting gave his impressions of the July 12-13 tours and a Bondurant town hall meeting. They will receive sheets to fill out with each WSA’s resources, uses and future options.
“It’s beautiful country,” said co-chair Coke Landers, who represents agriculture and ranching. “I look at Shoal Creek as an example of consensus agreement – there’s some of everything. I look at that as our melting pot, an example of what we can do as a group.”
Mike Crosson, the sportsman member, said the first day he “saw lots of black sticks” from last summer’s Cliff Creek Fire.
“I was disappointed with that but happy to see the forest regenerate itself,” he said, adding “amazing country” along Fisherman Creek “has potential for (transplanted bighorn) sheep. We all agree that it’s an area that needs to be protected for the past generations and future generations.”
Mike Henn of the Sublette County Conservation District said the trip’s highlight was riding up to the Elbow in the Sawtooths and Gros Ventres.
“I could see the wildlife potential” as well as two-tracks accessing the WSA, he said. “It’s a neat chunk of country and has a lot of uses. There’s an opportunity to make it a showpiece.”
Nonmotorized recreation member Monte Skinner thought the public tours were well put together and “was surprised the average age was 75 on the side-by-sides.” He mentioned the old Indian Trail and suggested the WSA boundary “is in the wrong place” near the Craig Cabin.
Co-chair and conservation member Dan Smitherman said he understands ranchers’ desire to help maintain grazing use “but there’s a lot of good wilderness opportunities up again the Gros Ventres that wouldn’t impact that.”
Bill Lanning, motorized recreation member, said he feels Shoal Creek WSA offers a good mix for horses and ORV, adding, “There are values in Shoal Creek that need to receive some kind of protection” and some trail clearing too.
Facilitator Steve Smutko told the group it is important to have conversations about how their “interests” work into what they saw in Shoal Creek WSA. He said three people submitted comments after the Bondurant public meeting.
Next up is a planned public tour of the Scab Creek WSA planned for Sept. 9, with more information as details are firmed up.
For agendas, minutes, interactive maps, comments and more about the Sublette WPLI, go to http://www.sublettewpli.org.