HMAs in southwest Wyoming includes Bear River Divide, Medicine Butte, Knight Ridge, and Coyote Creek. The Bear River Divide HMA, located northeast of Evanston, is the largest HMA in the PLPW program. The area is comprised of private and leased lands of nine different property owners, totaling 200,000 acres of a 50/50 mix of private and public lands, and provides access to over 2,000 hunters annually.
“Gaining support and compliance with ranch rules has been a challenge with the Bear River Divide HMA because of widespread public perception that the entire area is public land, or at least, has unrestricted access,” said Green River Wildlife Supervisor Steve DeCecco. “The Bear River Divide and surrounding areas in Uinta County have been utilized by the public as “open range” for generations. There are a couple main roads through the area that are privately-owned, but considered by most to be public roads. This wide-open access has led to some serious off-road vehicle use and littering.”
According to the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wyoming Public Land Guide, “Unless a public agency acquires a right-of-way for the road across private land, a private landowner may close the road at any time, may be selective in who is allowed to use the road, or may charge a fee for use of the road.”
“We want hunters to be informed of the changes and not surprised by them,” PLPW Regional Access Coordinator Andy Countryman said. “Bottom line is the Whitney Canyon Road and what is locally referred to as the Haul Road are privately owned and not public roads. In order for this access program to remain successful, everyone must follow the HMA rules and work to ensure other hunters do the same. Enforcement of road closures and other ranch rules will be a top priority this year and additional officers are being brought into the area to assist. It is our hope hunters will follow all HMA rules and, before it is too late, realize the property is private and can be closed at any time by the landowner if they are not."
“Hunters using one of the four HMAs should read the specific ranch rules that apply to each HMA because they vary,” Countryman said. “A significant change to the Bear River Divide HMA is a new regulation that states “Possession or use of Off Road Vehicles or commonly called “ORVs, ATVs, UTVs, side-by-sides, four-wheeler, dirt bike, etc”, as defined by Wyoming Statute 31-1-101, is prohibited. ORVs on a trailer or in the back of a vehicle are considered “possession”. Please do not bring ORVs onto the Bear River Divide HMA.”
Although there is plenty of public land in southwest Wyoming Countryman says the popularity for hunting and angling on private lands continues to increase.
"The PLPW program was developed to address growing concerns from ranchers and hunters,” Countryman said. “As non-traditional landowners purchase ranches for exclusive recreation and family livestock operations are finding it necessary to look to wildlife as an income source, more hunters are pushed onto the remaining public lands and traditional ranches. This crowds hunters and reduces managers’ tolerance of problems such as littering, off-road driving, and trespass. Landowners are able to use the PLPW program to enforce ranch rules and better manage hunters, while sportsmen directly benefit from the access allowed to those private lands.”
“Hunters should abide by the ranch rules and respect the landowner and the land for continued usage of this land. Remember, we are guests on their property.”
Details on obtaining HMA permits and accessing lands available through the program can be obtained by calling Andy Countryman at 307-723-2444, the Evanston Game Warden 307-789-3285, or by checking the Game and Fish websitewgfd.wyo.gov. A complete listing of ranch rules and license types valid in each area is also available on the website.
Contact: Andy Countryman 307-723-2444