Opinion: Wyoming’s First Public Lands Day, a Declaration of Outdoor Heritage

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Wyoming residents statewide spoke on an issue that most believe in — public land. On February 26, 2019, HB 99 establishing a Wyoming Public Lands Day was approved by state legislators and signed by Gov. Mark Gordon the following day. In signing the Wyoming Public Lands Day proclamation earlier this month, Gov. Gordon said these lands “are the shared birthright of every resident of Wyoming.” Wyoming Public Lands Day will be celebrated annually, starting this year on Saturday, September 28th

Earl DeGroot, one of the many thousands of members of the “Keep it Public, Wyoming” coalition, said, “Wyoming Public Land Day affirms Wyoming people’s commitment to oppose any effort to privatize these lands or transfer them to the state.” 

The Keep it Public, Wyoming coalition was formed in 2016 among more than 40 nonprofit organizations, including sportsmen, recreation, and conservation groups, as well as outdoor businesses and thousands of Wyoming residents. The coalition formed in response to threats to privatize and transfer federal lands to the state, and grew powerful when a resolution was brought to the Wyoming Legislature in 2017 that proposed revising the state’s constitution to allow state management of federal lands. 

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Under the “Keep It Public, Wyoming” mantra, hundreds of Wyoming residents — across the spectrum — turned out to rallies to show they are united in keeping public lands in public hands. They defeated the controversial bill. 

The diverse coalition remains united under this goal; to oppose the transfer of ownership or management of public lands to state or private interests. The coalition successfully helped pass HB 99 declaring the fourth Saturday of September as Wyoming Public Lands Day, and now, we celebrate. 

The holiday will be the largest single-day volunteer effort in the state. Wyoming residents and all Americans will celebrate in dozens of service projects and festivities across the state. “Curt Gowdy is excited to help people get out and enjoy their public land in celebration of Wyoming Public Lands Day,” said Curt Gowdy State Park Superintendent Patrick Harrington. To make these lands more accessible to all, Wyoming State Parks and Historic Sites are waving all day-use fees. 

Volunteers and public employees will remove litter and invasive plant species, blaze new trails and maintain existing ones, update fences and remove old ones, plant seeds, and even race 

across a desert — taking full advantage of the chance to give back to the lands that sustain us all. 

“The National Parks, forests, deserts, wildlife refuges, and conservation lands strengthen Wyoming’s economy and provide endless recreational and educational opportunities. They are shared resources and home to important biodiversity and rich ecosystems,” said Aaron Bannon, NOLS environmental stewardship and sustainability director. 

“There’s a reason why the first National Park, National Forest, and National Monument are located in Wyoming — our public lands are some of the most spectacular in the country,” Wyoming Outdoor Council program director Steff Kessler said. 

Whether one subsists, hunts, fishes, hikes, camps, picnics, climbs, or enjoys any other activity on public land, Wyoming residents understand the importance of keeping large swaths of land in public trust, owned by the people.

Earl DeGroot – Citizen
earldegroot@gmail.com
307-634-0286

Aaron Bannon – NOLS
aaron_bannon@nols.com
307-349-7593

Steff Kessler – Wyoming Outdoor Council
stephanie@wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org
307-332-7031 x21