Rock Creek: The Designation Debate

Rock Creek: The Designation Debate (Photo by Chris Foy)
Rock Creek: The Designation Debate (Photo by Chris Foy)

It would literally take an act of Congress. Since 2005, the Wyoming Wilderness Association has been pushing for the designation for the Rock Creek Wilderness Area as protected wilderness following the Bighorn National Forest's recommendation in it's forest plan.

Associate director of the Wyoming Wilderness Association, Carolyn Schroth, says a Congressional designation of Rock Creek would preserve the area for austerity.

U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis took her first horseback ride into Rock Creek in 2005 in a trip hosted by the HF Bar Ranch. She told the Billings Gazette that the issue was worth considering and that she wanted to wait until she heard what local residents want to do.

The WWA says more than 1,500 Wyoming residents and more than 400 local businesses have endorsed its proposal to designate the 34,000 acres of untouched wilderness just a few miles west of Buffalo.

But some critics of any potential designation of Rock Creek have a range of different concerns. If granted protected status, timber harvesting and drilling would be prohibited. So would the use of machinery, from chainsaws to ATVs.

Schroth says there are misconceptions about what would be allowed and what would be prohibited.

Even without designation, the use of motor vehicles is already prohibited by the U.S. Forest Service.

Others against a wilderness designation point to claims that it is too remote of an area to be spoiled and that designation could attract an influx of tourists. Owner of the Paradise Ranch, Clay Miller, told the Gazette Wyoming's tourism industry depends on having some kind of wilderness.

We'll have part two in this series next week, further exploring both sides of the debate over the Rock Creek Recommended Wilderness Area.

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