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Wyoming elected officials visit with BLM director in Washington D.C.

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By Trina Dennis Brittain
Rocket Miner
Via Wyoming News Exchange

ROCK SPRINGS — Four delegates from Wyoming traveled to Washington D.C. earlier this month to impress upon  the director of the Bureau of Land Management the importance of the trona industry to Sweetwater County. 

Sen. John Kolb, R-Rock Springs; Sen. Stacy Jones, R-Rock Springs; Sen. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton; and Sweetwater County Commissioner Taylor Jones discussed the BLM’s Rock Springs Resource Management Plan with Tracy Stone- Manning, BLM director.

Commissioner Jones explained that before they flew to Washington D.C. for the meeting, they worked with Fred von Ahrens, Craig Rood, and a few other representatives from the local trona industry to put a presentation together regarding the impacts the local trona industry has had in Sweetwater County. 

Impacts include the number of current employees, projected employees, the economic impact of the industry on the county and state, future expansion and future economic impacts.

“Our trona is clean and natural; the synthetic trona from China is bad for the environment,” said Commissioner Jones, mentioning that he and his colleagues wanted to stress how important the local trona industry is to Sweetwater County.

The elected officials also worked with Paul Ulrich, vice-president of government and regulatory affairs of Jonah Energy LLC.

“These industries do a lot to help our communities,” said Ulrich.

He added that the delegates wanted “to take a human approach” when they met with Stone-Manning.

They obtained a study regarding the impacts oil and gas industries have had on the land.

“When the oil and gas location is reclaimed, the land is healthier than it was if left untouched,” Commissioner Jones pointed out. “The untouched piece of land next to the reclaimed land is pretty much water and sagebrush. The reclaimed land is flourishing; it has all kinds of grasses, plants and flowers.”

He said that their intention at the meeting is to “show that we’ve all been good stewards of the land in Sweetwater County.”

“The desire for drastic changes isn’t necessary,” he said.

Eric Bingham, land use director, also played a role in providing information for them.

Dockstader opened and closed the meeting. 

Kolb spoke about how agriculture would be impacted by Alternative B. He also spoke about the loss of revenue of schools if Alternative B was chosen. 

Sen. Jones presented about the trona industry; Commissioner Jones talked about the oil and gas industry and motorized access.

“If you’re going to hunt, fish or camp in Sweetwater County, you’re going to need motorized access,” he pointed out, adding that motorized access affects the agricultural community too. “They need to get to the animals to take care of them. I hope Stone-Manning understands that all the things the industries and communities do, including agriculture, benefit wildlife.”

Jones reported that it was a “really good conversation with her,” describing the meeting as “productive” and “very open.”

“It was a good exchange of ideas. We told our stories, gave her the package we had, she took notes and paid attention,” he said. “She asked about Little Mountain, so there was some back and forth.”

It is too early in the process for anyone to indicate what the RMP would look like, according to Commissioner Jones.

“She did commit that moving forward they would not be using Alternative B; there would be something different,” he said. “She said that it will come from the state and the local level, though. They will keep her informed about what they’re putting together. They will send her the final product. If she supports it, she’ll sign off on it.

“She was pretty clear that it’s more of a local level putting this together,” he said.

The next step for the delegates is to arrange a meeting with Kimberly Foster, director for the Rock Springs BLM office, and Andrew Archuleta, BLM Wyoming State Director in Cheyenne.

“We’d like to go over the same points we did with Stone-Manning with them,” Commissioner Jones said. “With the D.C. trip, I think it really made an impact that we were willing to spend the time and the money to go all the way out there and meet with those folks on this.

“I think everyone realized how important enough it was for us to take one more shot at it,” he said, adding that they were in Washington D.C. for ‘everyone.’

“Everybody has a chance to be negatively impacted by Alternative B,” he said. “No one is free and clear from this one. “I don’t care what political party you’re with, you could lose your job. It doesn’t matter who you are at home; we’re all at risk.”

Even though the delegates are not sure what they may have accomplished, they were thankful for the opportunity to “show the good in Sweetwater County.”

“It felt good, but we’ll see what happens,” Commissioner Jones said. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”

The goal for the BLM is to complete the RMP before the beginning of the new year.


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