Animal collage with birds, sagegrouse, biker, windmills, and ungulates

Editor’s Note

Here in the West, we ask a lot of our public lands. As the photo collage on the cover illustrates, we pile demands onto the federal and state lands that surround our communities.

Prairie and dirt road with hills in distance

Federal lands in public hands

The long history of Congressional intent to keep public lands public

Bob Keiter is the Wallace Stegner Professor of Law, University Distinguished Professor, and Director of the Wallace Stegner Center of Land, Resources, and the Environment

Federal Lands Infographic - for text equivalent, see chart below

Your Federal Public Lands

The United States of America is unique in the world for its vast system of federal public lands, which make up more than a quarter of the country’s land area. Those federal lands, mostly concentrated in the 11 westernmost states and Alaska, span everything from rivers and canyons to sagebrush steppe and alpine peaks.

Two people on a canoe in a lake

Why We Have Federal Land

The citizens and leaders behind our public land heritage

On June 30, 1864, the US Senate approved a grant of federal land to the state of California, a tract in the Sierra Nevada at the headwaters of the Merced River “known as the Yo-semite valley…with the stipulation…that the premises shall be held for public use, resort, and recreation…for all time.”

National monument picture at sunset

National Monuments and Local Concerns

What it means to have protected public lands in your backyard

Waves lap the shoreline. An endless stellar canopy shimmers in the ink-colored sky. Smoky fragrance drifts from a campfire, and 20 middle school students sit around the dancing flames.

Banking on Trails

Banking on Trails

Laramie could be the next western town to cash in on public lands recreation

On a Thursday evening last March, a crowd of eager residents packed into the gymnasium of the Lincoln Community Center in West Laramie to learn more about the Pilot Hill Project

skier shadow on snow

Consuming Experiences Instead of Stuff

What quiet recreationists bring to the outdoor economy and how to reach them

With BLM maps in hand and fragments of descriptions from locals, Eric Krszjzaniek searches for an old Indian village in Wyoming’s Shirley Basin. As he walks across the landscape, he pauses often to reference his Rockhounding in Wyoming guide and note the types of rocks in the area.

Painting of deer crossing road

A Different Kind of Map

Social science reveals the contours of wildlife migration’s human dimensions

On an early June morning, I found Jessi Johnson and her hunting partner loading up a bright red pickup, deep in discussion about the best spot to scout for bedded-down deer.

wind-blow, old, dead trees in field of sagebrush


An essay

Sunlight and wind circled me, a girl looking out over the Red Desert and the small stream below. Perched next to a gnarled, twisted juniper that had been dead for my entire life, I sat at the edge of the draw that held the green meadow

Aspen trees with aspen leaf in foreground

What to Do with Wilderness Study Areas?

A collaborative stakeholder group negotiates a solution

On a sunny afternoon in early May, twelve people sat around plastic tables in a classroom in the Carbon County Higher Education Center in Rawlins, Wyoming.

sheep on rocks

Where Domestic Sheep Still Roam

A court case challenges domestic sheep grazing on national forests

In any court case, there are two sides. But in a wood-paneled courtroom at the Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Butte, Montana, differences between the two sides headed to court were not immediately apparent.

Courtney Duchardt and David Augustine in field

Sharing Fences

Local knowledge guides research across public and private lands

“I’ve learned to tune out the incessant alarm calls of prairie dogs when I work,” says recent University of Wyoming graduate Lauren Connell. “It’s that or go crazy.”

Wild horse running in grassy field. Photo by Eric Krszjzaniek.

Bullies on the Range

Wild horses are winning out over wildlife in the struggle for water

On a summer day in 2011, biologist Neil Perry was checking on prairie dogs he had translocated to a remote canyon in Mesa Verde, National Park, not far from the Four Corners region.

Horse with tracking device

Tracking Wild Horses

Technology addresses a rangeland challenge

As the sun sets over the stark Skull Creek Rim, I sit in the sand and take a swig from my water bottle. I am lucky to have portable water in this barren landscape.

Volunteers planting sage brush

One Steppe

New tools to improve management of Wyoming’s sagebrush ecosystem

In November 2014 the Douglas Core Area Restoration Team was all set to plant 16,000 sagebrush seedlings in a wildfire burn area east of Douglas, Wyoming.

Broken fence with hills and buttes in background - watercolor painting

Rebel Yell

Why the Sagebrush Rebellion didn’t end with Malheur

“The Court excludes Dr. Cawley’s testimony as irrelevant and finds, in any event, that its probative value is significantly outweighed by the risk of confusing the issues, misleading the jury, and wasting time.” Here’s the backstory.