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They’re at it Again

Written by Dennis Sun

A while back I was reading a study titled “The Economic Cost of Wilderness” and, of course, it proved that, for the most part, lands designated as wilderness do have an economic cost to local economies, especially in western states like Wyoming.

Of course, there are differing views on the costs of wilderness areas to local economies, and they have always been an emotional issue locally and a contentious issue nationally. It is almost like a game, with each side wanting to win so the other side will lose. Those who are against wilderness usually lose in their pocketbooks, while the environmentalists, whether they win or lose, will go on with their jobs as usual and just their egos are hurt. It really doesn’t cost them personally to state their case for wilderness – they raise the funds to pay their salaries, whereas the local people that the wilderness designation will affect have to spend their own dollars and time. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

This past spring, President Obama asked all states to recommend areas for wilderness designation and good ole Wyoming didn’t send any areas back – our state and local governments didn’t see any sense to it. Good for them. While there are currently two areas environmentalists are pushing for wilderness designation in the state, one in the northeast Big Horn Mountains and one south of Arlington, the Obama administration is focusing on other areas in the state using different methods to protect lands. We in Wyoming still have the Antiquities Act to protect us, and we can thank our past political leaders for that.  

The Obama administration now plans to use executive orders and a new campaign titled “We Can’t Wait” to try to get more lands listed under the national monuments designation. Remember the memo from the Department of Interior last winter that listed the funding they thought it would take for acquisition of private lands along the UP railroad lands, or the checkerboard, in southwest Wyoming and the private lands in the Upper Green River area? Just in the Upper Green area they were talking about acquiring around 397,210 acres at a cost of $2.3 billion. I would image those kinds of dollars would be difficult to get past Congress these days, but using executive orders to get national monuments would be possible in some western states. I have heard they have, for the moment, given up on the Red Desert for any special designation, but the BLM and Western Watersheds now have it so tied up it doesn’t really need any grand titles. We hope for the best for the ranchers who use the desert for summer grazing, or who have private or state lands out there. They are in an uphill battle.

With all of our economic mess nationally, the president should place all special designations on hold throughout the West. If he can’t wait for Congress, that’s tough, there are more necessary tasks to get our nation back on track. One of those is that we can’t wait for a new president.

Dennis