Our public land is something we don’t take for granted in Wyoming.
Here, every fall, sportsmen and women head for these public lands seeking adventure and the opportunity to stock our freezers and create memories (some that even hang on our walls.)
But hikers, snowmobilers, anglers, OHVers, and campers also depend on access to healthy public lands for their pursuits. Generations of families have established traditions reliant on access to our public land treasures.
So when they are threatened and at risk by land transfer bills, we don’t sit idly by.
In recent years, hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts have quashed efforts by politicians to cram land grab bills through Western state legislatures that would transfer or sell America’s public lands to state or private interests. But now the same legislators behind past attempts are drafting an amendment to Wyoming’s constitution that would attempt to assuage concerns of loss of public access if land is transferred to the state.
This amendment may appease those who aren’t following this effort closely, but we are not going to be confused by what this really is – a political ploy and another attempt to steal our public lands and threaten our outdoor heritage and legacy.
To some, the effort to embolden Congress to hand over America’s public lands to the individual states may seem like a good idea at first glance, but there are some huge pitfalls. The mandates of the federal agencies managing on behalf of all Americans guarantees multiple-use and public input while the state’s mandate is to maximize revenue on state lands. Public input, multiple-use, access – isn’t required.
In 1890, the federal government granted approximately 4.2 million acres of land to the state of Wyoming. The law requires state land to produce income to support public schools and other state institutions named in the original grants. Selling off the land is an option, and 700,000 acres has already been disposed of.
The recent Bonander land swap proposal that would have jeopardized thousands of acres of public land access in the Laramie Peak region highlights the uphill challenge public land users face when dealing with land owned by the state. While the board made the right decision to vote the proposal down, it took substantial effort by sportsmen and women. These lands belong to all of us – not just the rich or privileged.
The legislators behind this effort argue they want the best for Wyoming and claim state entities will be more responsive to local input when managing our public land.
With a full house in Riverton in early November, at the Select Federal Natural Resource Management Committee meeting, sportsmen and women and outdoor enthusiasts banned together in a unified voice with a respectful, “NO THANKS.” The committee, however, ignored this input as it moved forward with an unwarranted introduction of a constitutional amendment demonstrating that they have no intention of responding to the enormous amount of public comment and opposition to such an amendment that is, in fact, an attempt to set the stage to take away our public lands in Wyoming.
A legislative subcommittee plans to meet again at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Jonah Business Center in Cheyenne, and we encourage the public to attend and voice your concerns. We also strongly encourage legislators to re-think this distraction and focus on real solutions by working together to improve and fund public land management efforts so they have the resources to effectively manage our public land.
Anything less than this would be an affront to sportsmen and women, and against the will of their constituents and all Americans who own our public lands.
Chamois Andersen, Laramie, Wyoming Wildlife Federation
Joshua Coursey, Green River, Muley Fanatic Foundation
Nick Dobric, Dubois, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Buzz Hettick, Laramie,Wyoming Chapter of Backcountry
Hunters & Anglers
Tasha Sorensen, Cheyenne, Trout Unlimited