Casper, Wyo. — Old refrigerators, TVs and freezers pile up along the road in Rogers Canyon outside of Laramie.
Shotgun shells and broken glass litter the ground. Dead trees lean over, killed after being used as a backstop for target practice, and trails wind up hillsides going nowhere, causing erosion into the drainages below, said Amanda Jones, rangeland management specialist with the Bureau of Land Management’s Rawlins field office.
Many towns in the West have these spots: Coal Mountain Road outside of Casper and Government Draw outside of Lander, for example. They’re public land where people go to sight-in rifles, shoot clay pigeons, 4-wheel, dirt bike and hike. Unfortunately, they’re also where people go to dump old appliances they don’t want to haul to the landfill, tear around in trucks in the mud and shoot anything they can find.
In Laramie, a group of local volunteers and the Bureau of Land Management are trying a relatively new approach to fixing an old problem. Instead of banning the area from public use, the BLM office proposed a plan recently that includes:
Building a 1.15-mile fence on County Road 17.
Creating three parking areas.
Establishing a preferred area for target shooting.
Limiting big trucks on one side of the road.
Building a kiosk telling people what would and would not be allowed.
“We’re hoping it will help with the education portion,” said Jones. “We are hoping to get it back so that it is a good educational area and recreation area and so no one is threatened.”
Neither the BLM nor the Rogers Canyon Coalition – as the group of volunteers is called – wants to ban shooting, off-roading or any other activity. They just want it to be a little safer, Jones aid.
The rancher with a grazing lease in the area has stopped running sheep over portions of the land because the glass and debris are too dangerous. The Albany County Commission and sheriff’s office has also told BLM they are concerned about shooting and dumping in the area, Jones said.
Bicyclists worry about stray bullets ricocheting off rocks, said Ramsey Bentley, a geologist with the University of Wyoming and one of a handful of people leading the Rogers Canyon Coalition.
“Everything is close in there,” Bentley said. “They’re standing a little ways off the road shooting, and if you’re coming down the canyon and hear it, you’re squeamish about it.”
Bentley has been going into the canyon for decades to hike and bike. The number of shooters and amount of garbage seems to be getting greater. He and others have hosted cleanups, but that doesn’t seem to be enough. It just continues to pile.
Garbage isn’t the only concern. Some of the older refrigerators have Freon, a hazardous chemical that could leach into the ground, Jones said.
She hopes the proposed 1.15-mile fence will help prevent some of the dumping and the creation of unofficial roads but still allow access to existing roads and trails.
If it is cleaned, and stays clean, Bentley wants people to be able to use the area to study geology or plants. He also wants the rancher who leases the land to return to grazing.
“We don’t want to ban any uses. What we really want to do is get everyone on the same page and use the place but not continue to trash it,” Bentley said. “We hope everybody will buy in. That’s our goal, to get everybody in on it and educated about it.”