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WYO Historic Trails Make Tracks Through Congress

April 27, 2009

Casper, WY – The history of the settlement of the Wild West has gained a little more prominence in Wyoming. The state's segments of the Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail and Pony Express route, as well as a number of Native American trails, are included in the new National Landscape Conservation System. That means their historical significance could gain more footing with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), according to retired BLM employee Gary Long, who is now a board member of the Alliance for Historic Wyoming.

"This provided an endorsement for that system, which is really important in terms of ensuring the longevity of protection."

The designation became official with President Obama's recent signing of the Omnibus Public Lands Act, although Long says recognition of what the Act means for emigrant trails has not been widely publicized. Also pursuant to the Act, studies will be done on additional routes and cutoffs of the network of trails through Wyoming and other states, for possible inclusion in the National Historic Trails System.

Some are concerned that that preserving Wyoming trails could limit oil and gas drilling.

Long says their new status means the value of history, culture, water quality and the environment will carry weight for decisions on how these public lands managed by the BLM will be used.

"Those lands probably will become a little bit more of a priority. It will translate to a little bit more consistent on-the-ground management."

Deb Courson, Public News Service - WY