From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 9, Number 7 - May 5, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

County Commissioner John Linn addresses a packed house Thursday evening at the Pinedale Auditorium.
The perfect wilderness storm

by Derek Farr

More than 450 citizens packed the Pinedale High School Auditorium Thursday during a sometimes-raucous meeting against the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA).

Opponents of NREPA believe the act threatens Sublette County’s recreation, economy and heritage.

Not one NREPA supporter was present at the meeting.

“Everybody here is concerned, and they should be,” Sublette County Commissioner John Linn said. “This is almost like the perfect wilderness storm.”

Linn isn’t the only commissioner voicing an objection. Commissioner Joel Bousman will testify about NREPA – contained in H.R. 980 – during a hearing of the House of Representative’s National Parks, Forest and Public Lands subcommittee today.

New York Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney introduced NREPA to Congress in February. The bill designates up to 24 million acres of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands as wilderness in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon. Under the wilderness designation, those lands would be off limits to road building, mechanized vehicles or tools and industry. Seventy-one representatives have cosponsored the legislation and only two, both from Washington, are from the affected states.

“This is their view of how it’s going to benefit us,” meeting facilitator Jason Ray said about language in the bill claiming it would produce a more sustainable western economy.

The audience cheered Ray wildly as it did on several occasions during opposition speeches from four elected officials and 38 audience members.

Perhaps the most ominous warning came from Wyoming State Sen. Dan Dockstader (R-Afton). Dockstader said if the bill passes through the subcommittee, it could be attached to omnibus legislation.

And with Washington’s current left-leaning political climate he said, “We are ripe for something like this to happen.”

State Rep. Jim Roscoe (D-Wilson) also spoke saying he strongly opposes the bill, and representatives speaking for Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) railed against the bill as well.

The purpose of the meeting was to create a six-person board of directors to represent the interests of the Western Wyoming Multiple Use Coalition (WWMUC).

Ray said the WWMUC’s objective is to: keep Western Wyoming a multiple use area that will locally manage recreation and development on federal lands.

Cotton Bousman, Kent Price, Kurt Cordingly, David Royal, Bob Wharff and Sutton Truluck volunteered for the board during the meeting’s discussion period. In addition, audience members offered office space and $250 start-up cash to get the coalition going.

But it was the audience’s comments that stole the show.

One elderly Lincoln County resident requested the state to gain control of federal lands. Another said H.R. 980 was unconstitutional, while another suggested a bill limiting outdoor activities in the winter might lead to an increase in domestic abuse.

Other speakers lashed out at the bill’s threat to their homes and livelihood.

Commissioner Linn presented data compiled by the Ecosystem Research Group that indicated Sublette and Lincoln counties would loose 4,224 jobs under the act.

“We don’t need this,” he said. “We can’t handle this economically.”

On Friday, Ray said a couple hundred letters were collected from the meeting for delivery to Washington D.C. He said another pile of letters were at the County Clerk’s office waiting to be faxed to the nation’s Capital.

All eyes are on today’s committee hearing where Bousman will speak for five minutes and then field questions from committee members. It is possible a vote could come as soon as today.

The committee meeting is scheduled for 12 p.m. MDT. A live audio Web cast is available at Browse to the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Land’s Web page and look on the left for the Web cast icon.

Photo credits:  Derek Farr

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