From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 50 - March 13, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Cattlemen urge public vote on PDR

by Cat Urbigkit

At its meeting last Saturday, the Green River Valley Cattlemen's Association approved a variety of resolutions expressing the group's official position on specific issues, but none was more contested that the battle over the proposal for a county-sponsored purchase of development rights (PDR, or conservation easement) program using tax revenues.

During Friday afternoon's committee meetings, Jim Bousman and Gary Espenscheid sat down and became a committee of two, with two very divergent viewpoints of the issue. As a result, the committee could not bring a single viewpoint forward.

Saturday's business meeting for the cattlemen began with approval of all the resolutions brought forth from committee meetings the day before.

Included were resolutions addressing a variety of issues:

Pinedale Resource Management Plan: The cattlemen's position is that the BLM attempted to "unduly influence" public comments by issuing certain documents during this early stage of the RMP revision process, possibly impacting the final outcome.

Rangeland monitoring: The group is supportive of a voluntary rangeland monitoring pilot project on certain allotments in the East Fork watershed, to help lead to science-based decision-making.

Wild horses: The group approved a statement that the BLM should not revisit the wild horse herd management area issue, and that the Pinedale Resource Area should not include any wild horse herd areas.

Wild rivers: The association approved a statement opposing wild and scenic river designations that include private lands without the unanimous consent of all affected landowners.

West Nile Virus: The approved resolution requests the county to sponsor a West Nile Virus educational program for at-risk humans and to assist horse owners with vaccination costs.

Planning: The association's resolution was in opposition to creating a large-tract development category for county zoning purposes.

Gratitude: This resolution listed various businesses and individuals who helped to sponsor the cattlemen's meeting and thanked these entities for their support.

Instream flow: The association requests that the Wyoming State Engineer vacate all instream flow rights, presently approved and/or adjudicated, and reject all pending instream flow applications, because they are not in compliance with state statute. What the cattlemen are taking issue with is the fact that although state law stipulates that instream flow applications must originate with the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, WG&F personnel haven't taken the instream flow proposals to the commission for approval before sending the applications on to other state agencies for action.

Then it came time for consideration of any resolutions from the floor. Espenscheid rose and presented a resolution, accompanied by the endorsement of 16 ranchers, with was supportive of the county initiating a pilot PDR program.

But before discussion could occur, Big Piney rancher Dan Budd moved to table the resolution, which was then immediately seconded. That made Espenscheid's resolution non-debatable.

Albert Sommers, who was conducting that portion of the meeting, then asked if there were any other resolutions from the floor. Bousman rose, reading aloud his resolution that called for the association to remain neutral on the county PDR program issue, but had the official position calling for the issue to be brought forth as a public referendum. Budd moved to table this resolution as well, with Dave Noble quickly offering the second to the motion. The voice vote on the motion to table was too close to call, so a hand count had to be conducted, with 11 voting to table the resolution and 13 voting against tabling. The outcome meant that Bousman's motion was up for debate on its merits.

When GRVCA vice-president elect Jim Greenwood questioned why the association should adopt a neutral position, Bousman explained that it was felt the cattlemen should adopt a position that allows its members to stand together, rather than divided into two separate camps. He called it a "fall-back position," adding that he felt everyone knew his position on the issue: "If there ever was an example of throwing money down a rat hole, this is it."

Kenneth Shriver was successful at amending Bousman's resolution to urge the county commission to put the PDR program to a public vote.

The group then had to vote for the now-amended resolution, which would have the cattlemen remain neutral while calling for a public referendum on the issue, and the cattlemen would urge the commission to put the issue on a ballot for the voters of the county. As it stands now, the county commission may decide whether to institute a pilot PDR program at its April 17 meeting.

The voice vote was once again too close to call, so it was a show of hands, with 15 voting in favor of the resolution and 11 opposing.

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