July 20, 2010
An Overview of the Outlaw Triangle
By Anthony Licata
The Outlaw Triangle is one of the most unique sporting regions in the lower 48. It's actually composed of two special places, the Little Mountain region of Wyoming, and the Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam in far northeastern Utah. It's called the Outlaw Triangle because Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid used the area as a hideout in the late 1800s.
The trophy trout fishing in the Green below Flaming Gorge Dam actually extends all the way downstream into the way to the Colorado border, but the first 20 or 30 miles or so of this prized tailwater could rightfully be included in the West’s “top 10 list of best trout fisheries.” Huge brown and rainbow trout chase flies and lures in the three “sections” of the river, giving the Green the reputation as a trophy fishery. Couple that with the splendor of the canyon, and the need to protect this special place is magnified. Trout Unlimited and Field & Stream are working to achieve “Scenic” designation for this stretch of the Green, simply to ensure that it remains the pristine angling paradise it is today for generations to come.
Currently there is a proposal to pump 250,000 acre-feet of water out of the Green River annually, then to pipe it across Wyoming and down to the front range of Colorado. If this were to happen, both the fishery on the reservoir, and the tailwater would be dramatically threatened.
If the Green is vital as an irreplaceable fishery to anglers, the Little Mountain region of Wyoming, just a stone’s throw to the north of the river, is just as important to hunters. Home to trophy herds of elk and mule deer, as well as the occasional moose and thriving herds of pronghorn, Little Mountain is one of the Intermountain Region’s most-prized destinations for big game hunting. In addition to its massive herds, the region also boasts sage grouse and, in its aspen-cloaked slopes, ruffed grouse, making it an all-around destination for hunters.
Little Mountain isn’t without its attraction to the backcountry angler, either. Several populations of native Colorado River cutthroat trout swim in hidden streams on Little Mountain, making for some unique adventure for the “cast and blast” sportsman interested in a truly special experience in a remote, yet accessible public lands paradise.
Unfortunately, Little Mountain has captured the interest of the natural gas industry—proposals exist that would transform this sportsmen’s dreamscape into something significantly less. Trout Unlimited is working with local stakeholders in the communities of Rock Springs and Green River—many of them industry workers themselves—to craft a plan that would allow for responsible natural gas drilling while protecting the unique resources of this treasured landscape.
Even with a glut of natural gas on the market, however, and with prices reflecting that, industry in the West, and on Little Mountain in particular, is aggressively pursuing new “inventory,” presumably to ensure a long-term future for drilling on public lands in the West. While TU and Field & Stream aren’t opposed to developing our domestic resources, there is legitimate concern that irresponsible planning and extraction will continue to erode our sporting opportunity, which is a huge part of the Western culture and heritage.
What’s in the Green?
Fishing assets: Trophy rainbow and brown trout, a few lake trout a few cutthroat trout, and native whitefish.
Hunting assets: Big bucks and big bulls haunt the rims of the canyon. Ruffed and blue grouse, excellent fall waterfowl hunting.
Other: The Green is one of the best backcountry floats in the nation, winding through a largely inaccessible canyon, apart from just a handful off put-in and take-out points.
Threats: Continued development in the region is stressing the viability of the resource. Keeping it like it is today is becoming a larger priority for all sportsmen and women in the region. Currently there is a proposal to pump 250,000 acre feet of water out of the Green River annually, then to pipe it across Wyoming and down to the front range of Colorado.
What’s on Little Mountain?
Fishing assets: Native Colorado River cutthroat trout.
Hunting assets: Deer, elk, pronghorn, sage grouse, ruffed grouse, bear, lion.
Other: It’s a recreational retreat for surrounding local communities.
Threats: Oil and gas drilling on Little Mountain could sully otherwise healthy native trout streams and bisect irreplaceable big-game habitat, infringing on opportunity for all who fish and hunt.