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The Evil of Misinformation

Written by Dennis Sun

In this day and age of social media and instant communication, the real story has a hard time getting out. One can’t just use social media as their only news source and get the whole story. One of the troubles these days is that the news from social media and some cable television out there seems to always have some kind of spin on it, that is, a spin favorable to their values, and it hit Wyoming the last few weeks.

For the last couple of years, having the state manage or control its federal lands has been a hot topic not only in Wyoming but other western states, as well. For those who do business on public lands, recent years have not been good. Grazing, oil, natural gas, coal and other commodities and users have had issues with overreach from Washington, D.C. If you hunt, fish or recreate on public lands, one doesn’t have as much exposure to how the lands are managed as other users do.

It has been recognized that most of the overreach and major decisions over the last few years concerning public lands have come from the back of the White House, so the public land managers have had to enforce these changes whether they are beneficial or not. County commissioners, state legislatures and those who make a living from public lands have reached a high point of frustration in doing business on these lands, and many are looking for solutions. The state taking over management of some of these lands being one option out of many.

Wyoming Legislators were asked to look into the issue, as were others in other western states. In Wyoming, the task fell on the Select Federal Natural Resource Management Committee. The Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments was charged to contract out a study on the feasibility of the state management of these lands, and after a $75,000 study was complete, consultants said it would be hard for the state to manage – let alone own – these lands.

The Legislative Committee also drafted a bill that proposed a constitutional amendment, which described some restrictions should a transfer take place and guaranteed rights of those federal lands. The Select Committee has really done a great job and accomplished what the Legislature asked them to do.

The trouble began as some sportsman groups and conservation organizations that were opposed to any change claimed that if there was state control, the state would sell those lands and the recreational values would be lost. As Election Day got closer, some candidates jumped on the bandwagon, hoping to get more votes. But as you can see, it didn’t help much. However, they sure stirred up the sportsmen and recreationists, who took the misinformation and ran with it.

That is, until they got to the Legislative hearing in Riverton, where they heard the real story on the study and proposed constitutional amendment. Some from the organizations still used the misinformation in their comments to the committee members. You know, you get more donations if you have a big cause, whether it is true or not.

At least in Wyoming, the government is most likely not going to exchange lands, give up management or sell land to the state. There is just too much mineral wealth underground, but it is good to have a discussion. The state and its people depend on these lands so much, including hunting, fishing and recreation.

But we need to all start with the real story, the truth.