Wyoming counties stand up for public lands

A rainbow paints the sky over the Green River on the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in Sweetwater County, Wyoming. Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS.

By Tasha Sorensen

EDITOR’S NOTE: Within 24 hours of this post Wyoming Senate President Eli Bebout told the Casper Star-Tribune he was killing the bill. This is a victory for sportsmen and women, but we must remain vigilant.

CHEYENNE – Wyoming legislators didn’t pay much attention back in November when concerned citizens spent more than two hours opposing a proposed constitutional amendment known as the public lands transfer bill.

Five of the six legislators hosting the meeting last fall voted to advance the amendment to the 2017 Legislative Session.

Perhaps they will notice letters opposing Senate Joint Resolution 3 (SJR3) from other politicians in the Cowboy State.

Trout Unlimited applauds the county commissions of Teton and Sweetwater counties for writing resolution letters against SJR3 and raising the concerns of those apparently unheard Wyoming citizens.

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An angler finds a fish in the Green River while visiting the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in Sweetwater County. Photo by Calvin Hazelwood.

We feel the commissioners of those counties (see links below) listened to their constituents, unlike those legislators at the meeting last fall, and we hope other counties in Wyoming and across the country follow their lead. This isn’t the first time a county commission has opposed a public land transfer. Albany County commissioners did so in 2015.

The concept of the recent constitutional amendment regarding management of federal lands transferred to the state sparked widespread opposition from the sportsmen and sportswomen community, and has proven to be a dividing factor for a state faced with important budget issues.

Despite these budget issues, Wyoming officials elected to spend $75,000 on a report to see if transferring management of public lands to the state would increase revenue on those lands.

The report from a consulting company determined “major changes in federal law”, would be necessary to substantially increase revenue. The legislators also apparently ignored the study they funded.

The Sweetwater County Commission in southwest Wyoming pointed out in its resolution that the United States of America manages 4.5 million acres of the county and it is “owned by all Americans.”

The commissioners said they “strongly oppose the transfer of ownership or management of federally owned properties to the State of Wyoming, private parties or other entities.”

Part of the resolution against SJR3 cites “a strong working relationship with the federal agencies managing lands within Sweetwater County” and the relationship between the federal agencies and the county “have been fostered and strengthened.”

Sweetwater County has been working with stakeholder groups like Trout Unlimited and the Bureau of Land Management to develop a plan for responsibly managing oil and gas development, particularly in the Greater Little Mountain Area. This highlights a collaborative approach working on real federal land management solutions.

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Visitors pose for a picture at a sign welcoming travelers to Grand Teton National Park in Teton County, Wyoming. Photo By Brett Prettyman.

The Teton County Commission letter is concerned the amendment asks for residents to approve the transfer of management of lands “without asking citizens if they approve of such a transfer”.

Teton County officials are also against SJR3 because “approval may give the state legislature the false impression that the residents have endorsed the actual transfer of the lands”.

TU staffers are meeting with Wyoming legislators during the 2017 session to discuss the proposed constitutional amendment and we let them know we oppose SJR3. We are also using the opportunity to work on concerns legislators have without the need for a constitutional amendment.

Tasha Sorensen is the Wyoming Field Representative for TU’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. She can be reached at tsorensen@tu.org

title=”application/pdf” />SweetwaterCounty_Resolution[1].pdf

title=”application/pdf” />TOJ_TC Public Lands SJ003 Staff report and letter[1].pdf

title=”application/pdf” />albanycountyresolution-fedlands.pdf

By Brett Prettyman.