The Wyoming Public Lands Initiative (WPLI) is a collaborative, county-led process intended to result in one, state-wide legislative lands package that is broadly supported by public lands stakeholders in Wyoming
Thank you all who showed up at the April 3rd Commissioner Meeting where they decided to move forward with an unbalanced proposal regarding future management of two Wilderness Study Areas. The proposal does not have agreement from the local WPLI committee. This committee of park county residents has spent the last 22 months researching, cultivating trust, and discussing options to incorporate multiple stakeholder interests into a recommendation that would potentially become law. However, things shifted for the committee this winter/spring adding another layer of complications to the negotiations.
The commissioners began entertaining Rep. Cheney’s introduced legislation that contradicts the WPLI process by being top down non-inclusive. This potential legislation also addresses the same Wilderness Study Areas that the committee has been working on. So, as you might imagine, stakeholders who were not fully vested in the grassroots collaborative consensus building process of WPLI, suddenly found another avenue to pursue that gets them what they want without compromise.
The commissioners have since voted to support the Cheney legislation arguing that there can be multiple avenues to resolving concerns with WSAs. Such support undermines the desire and trust required of stakeholders to negotiate in good faith through the WPLI process which is facilitated by the commissioners.
Furthermore, the commissioners either do not understand the intention of WPLI process or were never fully committed. Early on they unnecessarily restricted the committee from talking about any other public land than WSAs. This decision limited the committee’s ability to find common ground and made it impossible to cede concession elsewhere when interests were directly competing or in conflict. In March the commissioners forced the committee to vote. Upon realizing the committee had not reached any level of consensus, rather than remand the proposal to the committee and encourage further work; the commissioners abandoned the WPLI process. The commissioners have decided to make their own recommendation for the future management of our federal public lands.
The commissioners are holding two public meetings next week:
- April 25 – Wilderness Study Areas Public Meeting, Heart Mountain Hall, Park County Fairgrounds, 665 East 5th Street, Powell, 7:00 p.m.
- April 26 – Wilderness Study Areas Public Meeting, Cody Clubroom, 1240 Beck Avenue, Cody, 7:00 p.m.
This may be the last opportunity to persuade the commissioners to either
- leave WSAs in their current management status until consensus agreement can be made among the diverse public land stakeholders on a recommendation for future management; or
- speak up for conservation interests and tell them how you want to see the wilderness character and natural ecological function of these two WSA’s protected.
It is worriesome that our commissioners are supporting one-sided top-down public land legislation proposed by Rep. Cheney, rather than doing all they can to seek a well-rounded grassroots local solution for the betterment of everyone. For over 30 years the WSAs have been and are currently managed to ensure the protection of their wilderness character. In a world of consumption, development, and self-interest these natural wild landscapes are under threat of deterioration.
If you would like to learn more or have questions prior to the commissioner meetings, please click on any of the links in this article.
Thank you for remaining engaged in the future of our local federal lands! Your voice matters!
Jenny DeSarro | Wyoming Conservation Associate
Greater Yellowstone Coalition | GreaterYellowstone.org | 307.527.6233