Wyoming Public Lands Initiative and the Bridger-Teton National Forest

“In early 2016 the Wyoming County Commissioners Association (WCCA) organized the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative (WPLI).  The WPLI is a collaborative, county-led process intended to designate WSAs as wilderness, multiple use, or other management.  The result will be one state-wide legislative lands package that is broadly supported by public lands stakeholders in Wyoming.”

It always makes me a little nervous when a local “collaborative” (or local government) feels empowered to dictate federal land policies (especially where, as in this case, there is a county plan that purports to “guide … the management of public lands” – implicitly federal lands).  On the other hand, it’s always helpful to land managers if those with opposing views can work out and recommend something they all agree on.   With wilderness designation decisions there is the added layer of Congress having to take a national look before approving a decision.  In this case there are also national conservation groups represented in the collaborative, as well as local ones.  But there is also a lawsuit by other conservation groups, and apparently someone on the other side ran to the local Congresswoman who is meddling, so the county commissioners are asking for a “time-out.”  Here’s the latest.

3 thoughts on “Wyoming Public Lands Initiative and the Bridger-Teton National Forest”

  1. I think different groups of people have an “outsize” influence on federal lands policy. You can call it “dictating” or you can call it having an influence. This is an interesting example. Do environmental NGO’s “dictate” when they settle lawsuits according to what they want to do? What about elected officials.. do they “dictate” when they pass wilderness bills?
    The 9th circuit seemed to think that it was OK for the State of California to “dictate” what the southern California forests should do in their plans based on inadequate consultation (I still don’t really understand the case, but it resulted in an outsized influence.

    In my experience that there are sources of public policy legitimacy, elected officials, following the laws and so on, and they all jockey to have influence. I do like that the Wilderness Society saw it as a conflict of interest to collaborate and litigate.

  2. Here is a good point from one of the participants:

    It is illogical to decide the ecological fate of thousands of acres of Forest Service Palisades Wilderness Study Area even under the WPLI rules, biologist Ann Harvey told Teton moderators. Teton County’s advisory committee can’t consider wilderness acreage that extends into Idaho and can’t comment on parts of the WSA in neighboring Lincoln County where those commissioners want state ownership of federal lands. For WPLI purposes an ecological unit was bifurcated once, then again, and now only a portion is under consideration for preservation.
    “How does that make sense?” she asked.

    Why is this being attempted at a State level? Tradition! As I’ve commented many times, adaptive governance methods are in order here. But we keep trying the same things over and over again. Insanity! We need high level discussions at scales that transcend forest boundaries and county and state boundaries. But we won’t do this anytime soon. We are too fractured, too distracted, too ???

    Another perception is that whenever Wilderness questions are on the table there is always the stated urgency for some form of “hard release” status for so-called multiple use land. Remember the roadless area review and evaluations: RARE I, RARE II. These date back to 1967.

  3. I have no problem with “dictation” occurring where the “dictator” has the legal authority to do so. That would be true for Congress passing wilderness bills, and for judicial decisions or settlements. Not true because a national forest happens to be within a state or local jurisdiction, or because a self-appointed group thinks so. (And I’m not saying that they think so in this case, but the distinction between “outsize influence” and “dictate” might get lost along the way for some people.)


Leave a Comment