Bighorn Basin - Population distribution, land use, and land ownership

Every large community within the Bighorn basin is located within a few miles of a major stream or river. Worland, Thermopolis, Basin, and Greybull were developed along the Bighorn River, and Cody, Powell, and Lovell were developed near the Shoshone River. Only a few settlements have been located where there is no nearby supply of surface water; these settlements generally are associated with mineral development.

Land use in the Bighorn Basin is controlled primarily by the distribution of surface waters, precipitation, and the location of mineral resources. In the high mountain areas, above timberline, the alpine lands are generally used only for recreation. At lower elevations, thickly forested areas are utilized for recreation and limited logging. Grazing is the dominant use on grasslands along the mountain fronts and riparian areas. Croplands are located primarily along the major streams where irrigation with surface water is possible. Most of the basin lowlands are covered sparsely with sagebrush and are used moderately for grazing. The locations of active and historic mineral development properties are shown on Figures 5-3, 5-7, 5-8, and 5-9. Industrial, residential, and recreational areas occupy nearly all the nonagricultural land.

Approximately three-quarters (75.2 percent) of the of the land in the Bighorn basin is federally owned; it is controlled by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (33 percent), the U.S. Forest Service (22.8 percent), the National Park Service (16.6 percent), and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Reclamation, and Department of Defense (together ~ 2.8 percent). Approximately 4.3 percent of the land in the basin is owned by the State of Wyoming, and approximately 20 percent is privately owned. The privately owned property is concentrated along rivers and streams.

Reference View complete Wind/Bighorn Basin Water Plan