From their modest upbringings, Mardy and Olaus Murie became diligent, adventurous and charismatic leaders of the American conservation movement. With their siblings, Louise and Adolph Murie, they shaped conservation biology and ecology and are credited with some of our country’s most historic efforts to protect wild lands. The two couples split their time between remote Alaska and a ranch at the feet of the Tetons, where the Murie Center carries on their efforts today.
Wyoming’s bone-dry Bighorn Basin is isolated by its surrounding mountains and watered by crucial rivers and streams. Its history and natural history are rich with discoveries of dinosaurs, oil and gas, and with the traces of its occupants—American Indians, ranch and farm families, railroad families and oil workers.
The Powder River Basin sports a colorful history. Bones of bison slaughtered by people, found south of Sundance, Wyo., date back 6,000 years, and northeast Wyoming remained a favorite hunting ground for American Indians into the late 19th century. At that time the Powder River Basin was the scene of violent conflicts between the Indians and U.S. military men. Abundant grass made this region a favored spot for cattle and sheep ranchers. Under the grass is coal—so much of it that about 40 percent of the coal mined in the U.S., comes from the Powder River Basin.
When the U.S. Army in 1866 sent troops to build a string of forts along the Bozeman Trail north from the North Platte River to the Montana gold fields, Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes in that country reacted angrily. For two years, the tribes harassed and attacked the soldiers and travelers on the trail. After the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868, the Army withdrew, the Indians burnt the forts and for a few years, until hostilities started up again in the mid-1870s, the tribes the country largely to themselves.
Western Wyoming’s Green River drains 4,000 miles of forested mountains and high desert, home to migrating wildlife, grazing cattle, a few thousand people, and in recent decades a booming natural-gas business. Since prehistoric times, people have worked to balance the basin’s resources for their own benefit — and that struggle continues today.
The basin of the North Platte River takes up the southeastern quarter of Wyoming, plus a finger of land along the tributary Sweetwater River in the center of the state. The courses of the North Platte and Sweetwater determined early fur-trade and emigrant routes. Since that time, the basin’s water and other resources have continued to draw industry, stock raising, dams and irrigation—and people.