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  • Writer's pictureAddi Jenkins

Contentious Wyoming Public Lands Bill Moves Forward without Local Support

Sheridan, Wyoming – In response to the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative Act of 2023 (S. 1348) passing out of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee earlier today, the Wyoming Wilderness Association released the following statement.

The Wyoming Wilderness Association and many others were disappointed to watch the unbalanced and unpopular Wyoming Public Lands Initiative Act of 2023 (S. 1348) pass out of Senate committee by voice vote this morning. Senator Barrasso’s WPLIA of 2023 is neither balanced nor supported by Wyomingites. The bill is a net loss for Wyoming’s wildlands, lessening protections for over 100,000 acres of some of Wyoming’s best-protected BLM lands. S. 1348 as introduced did not have the public support of a single Wyoming-based conservation group or Tribal government, and the recommendations in the bill are the result of a widely-criticized, contentious and exclusionary county-led initiative. The Wyoming Wilderness Association has repeatedly offered to work with Senator Barrasso’s office on some laudable recommendations in the bill, including what would be Wyoming’s first designated BLM Wilderness areas. We are disappointed to see the bill move forward without any effort from the Wyoming delegation to secure the necessary support from the local communities or Tribes most directly impacted by the recommendations in this legislation. The Wyoming Wilderness Association will continue to oppose S. 1348 and stands ready to work with Wyoming’s leaders to do the grassroots, ground-up organizing to build the broad and diverse support that’s needed for successful permanent public lands protections.


About the legislation:

● The Wyoming Public Lands Act of 2023 (WPLIA) S. 1348 would impact 16 Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) - 176,000 acres of Wyoming’s best-protected BLM wildlands - across seven counties in Wyoming.

● The legislation is the result of an exclusionary and controversial county-led process that ensured one-sided recommendations and a net-loss for wilderness-level protections in Wyoming.

S. 1348 is not balanced - it is a net loss for Wyoming’s last, best BLM wildlands:

● The proposed legislation would protect 22,000 acres of Wilderness (less than 10% of the WSAs considered), and release approximately 130,000 acres of Wyoming’s best-protected BLM lands with lesser or no protections.

● The largest designated wilderness area created by S. 1348 would be 6,200 acres, compared, for example, to releasing the 22,000 acre Honeycombs WSA from any protections.

The legislation is the result of a flawed and exclusionary process:

● Recommendations in the legislation are the result of the widely-critiqued Wyoming Public Lands Initiative (WPLI), a process led by Wyoming County Commissioners to address BLM Wilderness Study Areas across the state.

● WPLI committees were often exclusive and unbalanced, excluding conservation organizations, sportsmen’s groups and Tribal engagement in many instances. The committees disregarded public input, and often failed to communicate with or represent their identified constituents.

● WPLI committees abandoned the consensus-based decision making model defined in the charter and instead included final recommendations based on majority-vote; a model that inherently limited collaborative decision-making, ignored minority concerns, and resulted in one-sided


What’s at risk:

● Wyoming’s Wilderness Study Areas make up only 1% of the state and less than 3% of our state's public lands. These are some of the last remaining wilderness quality BLM lands in Wyoming.

● Without a single acre of BLM Wilderness in Wyoming, our WSAs are our best protected BLM wildlands. The opposite of being “locked up”, many BLM WSAs are cherished for their quality recreational experiences found few other places, and are uniquely important to local communities’ economies, character, and quality of life.

This bill is controversial:

● The legislation disregards Tribal input or consultation requirements, co-stewardship opportunities, or sovereign treaty rights, and includes recommendations from county-led collaboratives that actively excluded Tribal representation.

● The bill does not have the public support of any local or national conservation organization working in Wyoming.

● The recommendations in S. 1348 do not represent Wyoming public land’s diverse stakeholders, and many lack support from committee members who served in the county-led process to produce them.

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