BLM seeks public comment on Pinedale’s proposed second cemetery
PINEDALE – The Pinedale Cemetery is running out of space and there is a need for a second cemetery. The Upper Green River Cemetery District (UGRCD) is working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Pinedale Field Office to obtain more than 30 acres of BLM-managed lands to be developed into a second cemetery within five years.
The BLM Pinedale Field Office is seeking public comment concerning the proposal submitted by the UGRCD to acquire a parcel of BLM managed lands to create the Windriver Cemetery. The property, located at lot 4, section 9, T. 30 N., R. 109 W., off of the Pinedale South County Road 23-123, was designated by the BLM in 1988 as “suitable for consideration for disposal, exchange and acquisition.”
Under the proposal, the BLM would charge the UGRCD only 50 percent of the property’s appraised value at the time of closing.
According to the preliminary concept put together by Steiner Thuesen, PLLC, in September 2022 on behalf of the UGRCD, the Windriver Cemetery would consist of 34.87 acres, with 7,375 traditional grave sites measuring 12 by 5-feet, 633 sites of the same size for veterans and 744 sites measuring 6 by 6 feet for cremains. The current plan includes a flag and assembly area and columbarium gardens, with 50 parking spaces, 24-foot-wide paved roads and 10-foot-wide walkways. A 40-by-60-foot maintenance building with yard, restroom facilities and a well for water usage is also proposed. The area would have benches with signage and trash receptacles. The entire cemetery would be fenced to protect landscaping, including shade and evergreen trees. The entrance to the cemetery would be off of Pinedale South County Road 23-123.
The current Pinedale Cemetery, located at 51 Fremont Lake Road, is more than 100 years old, with the first burial there in 1904. UGRCD representative Renne Reed said there are only about 28 lots left and the UGRCD has historically sold about 20 lots a year. A moratorium was previously put on the sale of the last lots. The Pinedale Cemetery currently consists of 17 acres and was expanded four times between 1975 and 1986, with the addition of a columbarium in 2020. A previous expectation to expand across Fremont Lake Road was scrapped once the plans to build the new critical access hospital at the existing clinic site were put into place.
Reed came before the Sublette County Commissioners on Dec. 20, 2022, to present a resolution requesting permission for the cemetery district to make application to the BLM to purchase land through the Recreation and Public Purposes Act. Reed explained the three reasons why the UGRCD selected this particular property, noting its proximity to Pinedale, the geography of the land and the cost to purchase and develop it.
Reed said the UGRCD explored numerous other options and locations, including private, state and federal lands. Other BLM properties in the Pinedale area would require $2 million to 3 million in excavation to “level off” the land before development. The same was true with available state lands, Reed said.
The commissioners also heard from Travis Chewning, BLM supervisory natural resource specialist with the Pinedale Field Office, who explained the UGRCD’s application meets the Resource Management Plan for the BLM Pinedale Field Office and falls under the Recreation Public Purpose Act.
Chewning said the BLM and UGRCD consulted a HAZMAT specialist when accounting in the application for the nearby burial site of Pinedale’s “anthrax cows,” which were interred in the area after their deaths “about 50 years ago.”
Along with an environmental assessment to ensure there will be no significant negative impact to the landscape and resources, plus an appraisal, the BLM requires the current public scoping period to remain open until April 14. The environmental assessment could take between four and six months, Chewning said.
The application itself could spend a year at BLM headquarters under review.
Chewning explained, “There’s about 70 to 80 steps” before the land could change hands.
Speaking to Chewning before the December vote, commissioner White asked, “Can you tell me what the triggers are that would deny this?”
Noting White’s query was “a little bit of a different question,” Chewning concluded, “There’s no specific answer to that question.”
Later in the meeting, commissioner Dave Stephens made the motion to approve the district’s resolution, which was seconded by Doug Vickrey and passed 4 to 1, with commissioner White, who said he lives “next to” the proposed area, casting the single dissenting vote.
To review the complete proposal, including a project map, and to submit comments to the BLM, visit the project website at https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2023727/510. Comments may also be submitted via mail to: BLM Pinedale Field Office, Attn: Tracy Hoover, PO Box 768, Pinedale, WY 82941.
The BLM advises commenters that if they include their address, phone number, email address or other personal information in their comments, their entire comment, including their personal information, may be publicly available at any time. While individuals may request that the BLM withhold personal information from public review, the BLM cannot guarantee it will be able to do so.