WPLI one last try is a swing and a miss

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – The 18-member WPLI committee was summoned forth to participate in the Board of County Commissioners’ special meeting concerning public lands. The advisory committee that has spent two years haggling over two Wilderness Study Areas within Teton County—Palisades and Shoal Creek—showed off for the board and the public why exactly they could not come to a consensus.

The BCC chewed up the first half-hour of the two-hour affair circling the wagons, trying to figure out how the process should go and what an end result might look like. When WPLI committee members were allowed the floor, it didn’t go much smoother.

“Even though I made the motion I will not be able to support the motion,” commissioner Paul Vogelheim began the special meeting.

The motion was an attempt to put to a vote a modified, modified version of a modified middle-ground plan authored by committee member Rob Shaul that began taking hold in the late stages of the WPLI process. The plan would keep Palisades as a wilderness area and offer concessions in Shoal Creek. Vogelheim was against that.

Vogelheim’s opening motion is called foreshadowing.

After the first 90 minutes of discussion, one committee member cut to the chase, “We could do this for two more years and I don’t think we are going to come to a consensus,” he said.

Vogelheim had been the one to stick his neck out, asking the advisory committee last week to give it one more college try inspired by the zeal of committee member Tom Turiano. In the end, the gambit not only failed to produce consensus direction for the wilderness areas, but the one thing the BCC did agree on and sign off on last week—a so-called ‘4+1 resolution’—nearly derailed as well.

Turiano called his modified plan bold, and one he thought truly found middle ground because everyone hated it. He was right about that.

Committee member Bruce Hayse said the plan was neither bold nor innovative. “I see it as cowardly,” he said. Hayse and fellow WPLI board member and habitat biologist, Steve Kilpatrick, urged commissioners to err on the conservative side and not be swayed by emotional decisions after hearing from all the people who want to open up public lands for recreational uses like sledding, skiing, motor-biking and such.

Wildlife has no voice and their habitat is being taken away everywhere, everyday, they said.

One committee member chimed in, “Whatever you decide, don’t remand it back to us.”

They had had enough.

A vote was called for on a modified MAWG plan. It failed, 5-12.

Commissioners then opted to fall back on ratifying a watered-down resolution but got lost in the vague wording of the one they agreed on a week ago. A suggestion that the WPLI committee vote on the wording they would like to see in a resolution was quickly squashed by commissioner Greg Epstein who reminded the board this was the same committee that had just crashed and burned, and the last thing they needed was to open a draft up to last-minute horse-trading.

Chair Mark Newcomb also was not interested in watching another WPLI vote.

The wording of a resolution will be crafted in the interim with ‘input’ from the WPLI. That will be forwarded to the Wyoming County Commissioners Association who will then send Teton County’s message to federal land managers in Washington, DC, who may or may not change the status of wilderness areas that have enjoyed protections since 1984.

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