Haub School of Environment
and Natural Resources
University of Wyoming
Bim Kendall House
804 E Fremont St
Laramie, WY 82072
The Grey Reef Stretch of the North Platte River runs from Alcova, Wyoming, through downtown Casper—a stretch of about 30 miles. A diverse coalition of public and private partners has worked to enhance this segment of the river’s fishery, provide improved public access, and create a greenbelt system of trails along the river in Casper over multiple decades.
A partnership of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, The Conservation Fund, and the Wyoming Fly Casters has led conservation activities on the upriver portion of the Grey Reef stretch of the Platte River. Over the years, this partnership has secured approximately eight key land acquisitions and conservation easements along the river, all of which allow public access. Certain land acquisitions, such as a 2007 purchase from the Van Rensselaer family of 275 acres, have involved private landowners, non-profit land trusts, and the federal government. Funding for these land acquisitions has been obtained from government sources, such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund (Table 1), the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (Table 4), and the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, and corporate, foundation, and private contributions.
As part of this effort, the BLM has developed a comprehensive management plan for the North Platte and Casper area that identifies areas “worthy of public access” and part of the river corridor as a Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA). The plan maintains that the agency will limit development, livestock grazing, and rights of way in these areas; emphasis will be placed on enhancing recreational opportunities and wildlife/fish habitats. In its plan, the agency also pledges to pursue land acquisitions and easements to improve public access and recreation opportunities. Additional federal support for the restoration of this area has come from the Bureau of Reclamation, which has improved the health of the river by releasing water from the upriver Alcova dam to enhance fish and wildlife habitat.
The Casper portion of this restoration project has been led by the Platte River Parkway Trust. This non-profit organization seeks both public and private funding sources to design and develop trail segments and enhance habitat along an 11-mile segment of the North Platte that runs through Casper. A central section of this stretch of river was adjacent to the former Amoco refinery, a significant brownfield site. The Trust’s efforts, which began in 1982, have spurred a greater cleanup and revival of the Platte River corridor and led to initiatives such as the “Platte River Revival,” a city-directed program that has garnered support from the BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and Casper’s residents and businesses.
Beyond its extensive trail system, a hallmark of the Trust is its master planning efforts, which started with a master plan for the riverfront trail system. The Trust has also engaged in Long Lakes and Elkhorn Valley trail system master planning, working in conjunction with the Casper Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, among others. To support its work, the Trust has blended local, state, and federal funding, and Natrona County (through the optional one cent tax), the City of Casper, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Wyoming Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Transportation, private donors, and other sources, have provided financial support.
Federal, state, non-profit, and private activities along the Grey Reef stretch of the North Platte River have complemented and reinforced each other to create a comprehensive restoration effort along a segment of river formerly degraded by industrial and agricultural activities. The BLM, land trusts, City of Casper, and Platte River Parkway Trust are continuing their efforts to further enhance this stretch of river, with future activities including additional trail enhancement, clean up, and land acquisition.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM). 2007. Record of Decision and Approved Resource Management Plan (December). Casper, Wyoming: Bureau of Land Management. Available online at: http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/ programs/Planning/rmps/casper/rod_armp.html.
Emery, A. (Executive Director, Platte River Parkway Trust). 2011. Personal communication, 14 March, 2011.
Lynch, L. (Wyoming State Director, the Conservation Fund). 2011. Personal communication, 4 March, 2011.
Nordby, B. 2007. Watch Out Trout: Deal Opens River Access to All. Casper Star Tribune (11 August).