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BLM wants low-key river recreation at Marton Ranch property near Casper

Feds call for comments on use of new public land that would boost recreation on and along the North Platte River.

A view of the Marton Ranch overlooking the North Platte River. (BLM)

by Angus M. Thuermer Jr., WyoFile

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management wants to know whether the Marton Ranch, which it acquired in a controversial 2022 sale, should serve as a low-key and lightly promoted river recreation area, much like the rest of its holdings in the North Platte River Special Management Area.

That’s how the federal agency envisions operating the new 35,668-acre addition to its contiguous block of 75,000 acres. An environmental review proposes extending the special management framework that governs other federal land along the river just southwest of Casper to the now-public Marton Ranch. Minor improvements would enhance fishing, boating, floating and other recreation while brochures and signs would inform recreationists about the resource. That stretch of the North Platte is home to a world-class trout fishery.

Now the agency is asking the public to weigh in on that vision.

The BLM will host a meeting from 5-7 p.m. Nov. 8  in the Hilton Garden Inn in Casper to explain management options and receive comment. 

Who said what

“The Marton Ranch has been in public ownership for over a year, and many have had the chance to experience it,” BLM acting Casper Field Manager Ben Bigalke said in a statement. “We want to hear from the community – what changes, if any, need to occur to how it’s managed.”

The federal purchase last year upset some Wyoming politicians who complained of the federal government securing more property in Wyoming, where it already owns and manages about 48% of the land. Gov. Mark Gordon said the government should divest itself of an amount of federal property equal to the ranch.

Other lawmakers have eyed legislation that would alert the state in advance of new federal land purchases and give Wyoming an opportunity to also bid on such properties. Worries about infringement on private property rights have so far stalled bills with that aim.

Why it matters

The BLM’s special management area along the river covers 118 square miles, according to The Conservation Fund, which worked with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the landowners to buy the ranch and then sell it to the BLM. Money from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund completed the $21-million transaction.

American Angler Magazine named the reach of the North Platte the top spot in the Lower 48 to catch trophy rainbow and brown trout, according to The Conservation Fund. Extending the BLM’s special management template across the ranch would retain recreation spending in the area and make Wyoming more attractive as a place to relocate and live, according to the BLM.

Limited development would maintain or upgrade existing facilities with a focus on public access, boat launching, parking, resource protection and sanitation.

Before the purchase, private ownership limited public access to about 8 miles of the river.Written comments may be submitted at the Casper meeting, by email to project manager Mike Robinson at m75robin@blm.gov or mailed to Robinson at the BLM Casper Field Office, 2987 Prospector Dr., Casper, WY 82604.

The BLM’s outline for use of the North Platte River Special Recreation Management Area. (BLM)

This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.