This Saturday, Sept 24, is National Public Lands Day. You can find volunteer activities to support the management of public lands here.
Wyoming is about 48% public land, meaning over 46 million acres of Wyoming is ‘owned’ by the citizens of the US and managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, the National Parks, the State of Wyoming, or the Bureau of Reclamation.
The practical application is that these lands are open to public use wherever there is legal public access. But that does not mean all manners of use on every piece of ground. The above agencies are responsible for managing these lands and many times that manifests as regulations on camping and other recreation, livestock grazing, timber harvesting, mineral leases, and use of motorized vehicles. The wildlife, and thus hunting and fishing regulations, are handled by the state Game and Fish.
Almost any sporting goods store in almost any Wyoming town you pass through will have maps to help visitors know if they are on public or private land. It’s a good idea to pick up some maps before you head into the wide open spaces of Wyoming. I also recommend getting a copy of the Public Access brochure which outlines the regulation regarding, well, accessing public lands.
It’s sometimes a shock to our eastern visitors that one can camp almost anywhere on public land, but that does not mean camping amenities are available. If you are going to enjoy some ‘rustic’ camping, campers must be aware of things they need to do to protect our lands… like pack your trash out, practice ‘camping hygiene,’ stay on the road (even if it’s just a two-track), use naturally downed trees for firewood, don’t let your dog chase the wildlife, and PLEASE be cautious with campfires.
And here’s a little western etiquette: If the gate is closed, close it behind you. If the gate is laid back and hooked to the fence it is intentionally being left open- leave it open.