Wilderness Society Praises Teton County Rejection of State Push to Seize Public Lands

May 19, 2015

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

PHOTO Credit: Jack Brauer.
County Commissioners affirm high value of shared public lands to Teton County’s economy, quality of life and recreation.

Citing some of “the most beautiful and iconic landscapes on earth” in Teton County’s backyard, the board of commissioners Tuesday morning unanimously passed a resolution that “opposes any and all efforts by the State of Wyoming to obtain the wholesale transfer of federal lands in Wyoming” to the state. In January, Sweetwater County filed a letter with the state legislature stating similar opposition to measures that would turn over federal public lands—such as parks, wilderness, and national forests—to state jurisdiction and management.

“We’re pleased to see Teton County Commissioners join Sweetwater County in rejecting the empty notion that the state has the right and the resources to be better caretakers of Wyoming’s magnificent public lands,” said Dan Smitherman, Wyoming representative for The Wilderness Society based in Jackson. “Increased grazing fees, limited access and reduced outdoor opportunities would significantly impact both outdoor recreation and ranching, not to mention the impacts to citizens and visitors in a state where 71% pursue outdoor recreation, mostly on public land. “Wyoming tax dollars are better spent on conservation, maintaining our high quality wildlife habitat and sustaining our strong tourism and outdoor recreation industries.”

Teton County prospers from millions of dollars brought into the region from tourism to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks—along with numerous national forests and wilderness areas found throughout the county. Sweetwater County, the largest county in Wyoming and bordering Utah, is home to mainly Bureau of Land Management lands which include, national conservation areas, iconic landscapes and numerous national historic trails marking Native American and pioneer movement across the West.

In March, the Wyoming legislature passed a “management study” bill (SF 56) and it was signed into law by Governor Mead. Although portrayed as a management study measure versus facilitating outright transfer, The Wilderness Society and other conservation, sportsmen, and recreational groups across the nation have decried such measures as wasteful use of taxpayer dollars and a path toward closing public lands to citizen recreational uses.

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The Wilderness Society is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than 700,000 members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org.

Contacts: Dan Smitherman, Wyoming Representative (307) 690-1737, dan_smitherman@tws.org