JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Whether bending to localized interests or returning to a legacy of party conservation, the Teton County Republican Party has broken ranks with state GOP on at least one issue: the transfer of public lands. The executive committee of the county Republican Party voted to oppose the wholesale transfer of federal lands, citing the critical importance of public lands to Teton County’s economy, community character, and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
“Conservation and responsible land stewardship are key conservative values shared today in Teton County,” said party chair Paul Vogelheim. “We have an obligation to protect and preserve our federal public lands, our pristine waters, and wildlife populations for our generation and those to come. As a result, it is imperative to voice our strong opposition to any comprehensive attempts at the local, state or federal level to shift ownership of federal lands to states.”
Party leaders reference the Antiquities Act (1906) and the lasting conservation legacy which flourished under President Theodore Roosevelt.
The stance adopted by the county GOP includes a pact with conservationists, sportsmen, anglers, hunters and recreationalists in strongly opposing the wholesale transfer of federal lands to individual states. “We believe a change in ownership of our public lands is a threat to public access, our conservation heritage and Teton County’s longstanding tradition of responsible stewardship. We encourage local solutions and partnerships that can improve management of federal lands for the preservation, use and enjoyment of all,” the county GOP’s official line
From A practical standpoint, merely covering the cost of wildfire suppression would break the bank for Wyoming should the state become owner and steward of lands currently in the hands of the federal government, Vogelheim said.
The issue has been divisive across the nation. Utah and Washington, DC have drawn battle lines over places like Bears Ears, with state leaders eager to control parks and monuments within their borders. In Montana, current Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke split with Republican Party leadership as a former US Representative because of the party’s stance on the transfer of federal public lands.
Vogelheim and the county Republicans feel opposing the transfer of federal lands to individual states honors traditional party values even if it bucks the state party line.