Categories: EnvironmentalNewsPolitics

Cheney’s wilderness busting bill moves out of committee

WYOMING – A bill introduced by Representative Liz Cheney that would remove WSA protections in three Wyoming counties made it out of committee this week.

Representative Cheney’s Restoring Local Input and Access to Public Lands Act (HR6939) cleared the House Committee on Natural Resources Thursday morning, November 15. The vote was 19 in favor, 11 opposed.

The bill would lift Wilderness Study Area (WSA) protections in National Forest land Big Horn, Lincoln, and Sweetwater counties. Cheney said she introduced the legislation at the behest of commissioners in those counties.

“I have heard from county commissioners, local officials, and other impacted users requesting that the WSA designations be lifted in these counties to restore management for multiple use and sustained yield. Recreation, ranching, and other economic activities have been negatively impacted by the decades-old WSA designation, which prevents access, locks up land and resources, restricts grazing rights, and hinders good rangeland and resource management,” Congresswoman Cheney said. “Congress is responsible for designating WSAs, listening to local input, and ultimately legislating on whether these lands should be returned to multiple-use management.  For over 40 years, federal land in Wyoming has languished in WSA status. The bill I introduced will finally address this long-standing issue and provide citizens and local officials in Big Horn, Lincoln, and Sweetwater counties more authority to determine how best to manage the federal land within their counties.”

The bill would not directly affect Teton County but critics of the proposed legislation say it could endanger future freedom of choice for natural lands protection.

HR6939 would also formally remove the Land with Wilderness Characteristics designation from public lands within Wyoming. The implications have Teton County officials concerned.

“Over the last few years, federal land management agencies abused their authority under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act to classify land as having wilderness characteristics then restrictively managing that land based on the agencies’ arbitrary standards without local input, support or any real justification. My bill ends this deeply flawed practice,” Cheney added.

Teton County chose to participate in the WPLI process. Though that did not result in a clear directive, Teton County Board of Commissioners have been clear with Cheney and DC that conservation of public lands is a core value of residents here.

The BCC wrote a letter to Cheney earlier this year asking she withdraw a related bill (HR4697) that would open backcountry in the Palisades WSA area to heli-skiing.

Watch the full committee meeting here:

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