OPINION: Rep. Cheney’s Public Lands Bill Guts Protections and Local Input

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The following was written and submitted by Zach Lentsch of Worland, Wyoming.

 

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Representative Cheney recently introduced a bill that threatens our way of life in Wyoming. While the subtitle of Cheney’s bill would have us believe otherwise, “ H.R. 6939: Restoring Local Input and Access to Public Lands” actually guts local input by unilaterally releasing Wyoming’s wilderness study areas without a single public meeting or town hall discussion.

If Representative Cheney wants to restore local input on public lands issues, she should spend some time in Wyoming listening to her constituents.

Bill Impacts Over 4.4 Million Acres of Public Land

The bill impacts wilderness study areas in Bighorn, Sweetwater, and Lincoln County and our roadless areas statewide – that’s over 4.4 million acres of public land.

It would eliminate existing protections that have been in place for decades, including trophy elk habitat, roadless areas in the Bighorns and numerous blue ribbon trout streams.

It would impact some of my favorite rugged and roadless country in Bighorn County: Trapper and Medicine Lodge Canyons.

These protections safeguard valuable habitat, impressive scenery, cultural resources, and recreational opportunities.

From the forests and big game habitat of the Bighorns mountains to the colorful desert hoodoos of the Bighorn Basin, these lands offer some of Wyoming’s best bird hunting, hiking, camping, ice climbing, horseback riding and angling opportunities. These places also provide essential habitat for wildlife.

Unfortunately, Cheney’s bill jeopardizes these invaluable resources by opening millions acres of Wyoming’s protected public lands to drilling, mining, road construction, and other forms of development.

These Lands Have Uses Beyond Drilling Rigs and Roads

As a sportsman, I can tell you that I am disappointed. She did not consult the thousands of Wyoming ranchers, hunters, anglers, hikers, climbers, or backcountry horsemen and women who use these lands.

These lands are our heritage, our way of life; they have uses beyond drilling rigs and roads.

Cheney’s bill makes no attempt to balance diverse interests and disregards a long tradition of collaborative approaches to public lands. This bill is a Washington D.C.-based, one-size-fits-all approach that favors the special interests that fund her campaigns.

Instead of bringing people together, H.R. 6939 picks winners and losers, favoring drilling and mining over the interests of average Wyoming residents. I strongly oppose this bill and any effort to rid our wild lands of necessary protections.