Commission adopts landowners’ strengthened position
Casper – On Sept. 8 the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission met in Casper, in part to discuss the proposed amendments to the Wildlife Protection Recommendations for Energy Development in Wyoming.
The recommendations caused a stir last spring, and came to a head at the Commission’s April meeting, when the Commission voted to go ahead and pass the controversial Recommendations. Many landowners felt the Recommendations, and particularly the Best Management Practices, infringed on their private property rights. They also felt they’d been left out of the document’s development process, as well as the process it outlined for developing recommendations to send to the Industrial Siting Council (ISC).
In light of those concerns, at the close of the April meeting the Commission asked Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna to organize a landowner group. Over the summer, it compiled language to strengthen landowners’ input in the wind energy siting process, alongside the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) and wind energy developers.
“Jim Magagna was asked to work with the landowner community to come up with a process to ensure the landowners have an opportunity to be involved with the developers and the Game and Fish in putting together recommendations for the Industrial Siting Council,” WGFD Deputy Director John Emmerich told the Commission. “The thing before you today is the coordination/consultation process with private landowners.”
“The recommendations lay out a process that ensures landowners will be part of collaboration between developers, Game and Fish and landowners to come up with recommendations to take to ISC,” said Emmerich.
“If, for some reason, consensus can’t be achieved, the Commission still has the authority to take its recommendations to the ISC, and the landowners have that ability, as well, to take whatever they would like to ISC. The ultimate goal is to work through any issues that may come up prior to that, so the ISC doesn’t have to go through the process of trying to balance opposing goals and recommendations,” he explained.
Several members of the public were at the Commission meeting to express their support of Appendix B, and Brett Moline of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation said, “I’ve been involved in helping craft the Appendix B, and this is something my members can wholeheartedly support. When we get affected interests at a table to come up with a plan that’s best for all involved, that’s the process we need to follow. Appendix B outlines who will be involved, and this process directly involves private landowners, wind companies and Game and Fish and is a process the state needs to use in more applications, not just wind energy. I think this is an outstanding product, and I do urge your support.”
Wheatland rancher and landowner Juan Reyes said, “I think this would be a step in the right direction – to approve this conservation plan for the good of wildlife and establishing a relationship with private landowners.”
Of the landowner recommendations, Magagna said, “The landowners and organization representatives put a lot of time and effort into this, with coordination from Commissioner Aaron Clark, the Governor’s office and Game and Fish personnel. I urge both the Department and those of us who represent landowners, to use this as an opportunity to make a strong commitment to making it work, and use this as example of the true partnership that typically exists and needs to exist between landowners and the WGFD, where we respect your role in wildlife management, and the Department and Commissioners respect our private property rights.”
“I hope this is representative of our willingness to work with people on these issues,” said Commissioner Clark Allan. “The Department will work with landowners, and I hope people are more comfortable with that.”
Along with the recommendations to the Commission, Magagna noted the landowner group has also drafted proposed changes for the ISC that would assure that landowners are involved in every step of the process and have the opportunity to be fully involved. The Wyoming Legislature will consider those in the 2011 session.
Following the discussion, Commissioner Aaron Clark moved to modify the Commission’s wind recommendations to incorporate the languge of the landowners into Appendix B, and also begin the process of bringing Appendix A into compliance with the Governor’s Executive Order, recently released in August.
The modified recommendations will be released for 30 days of public comment and brought back to the Commission at the Nov. 18 meeting in Lander for approval.