Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Marcus Huff
Staff Writer 

WPLI group to discuss Wild Horse Areas


November 11, 2017

WORLAND — Washakie County’s Wyoming Public Lands Initiative (WPLI) working group will meet on Monday and host representatives from Hot Springs and Big Horn counties to work further on recommendations due to the state next year. The WPLI is currently studying best use for Wilderness Study Areas (WSA) in the county, with recommendations to be submitted to the state next year.

The working group meeting, held at the Washakie County Fairgrounds, will feature discussions of the Honeycombs, water resources in the WSAs and designations for Sage Grouse areas. Public meetings and listening sessions will be held at a later date.

At the last meeting in October, WPLI group members heard recommendations from the Wilderness Society. This time, the group will learn the definition and difference between “Wild Horse Management Areas” and “Wild Horse Herd Areas.” The group will also review federal guidelines for grazing in wilderness areas.

“Basically, you have one end of the spectrum where the area is true wilderness, and nothing much is allowed as far as new roads or maintenance, and the other end where you would have designations that make it so it would never be released as wilderness again,” said WPLI member and Commissioner Aaron Anderson. “In between are designations that protect individual things and areas, so it takes some studying to determine which is best for each area.”

The goal of the WPLI group is to reach a consensus as to the use of the WSAs in the county, through public input. The primary areas of concentration in Washakie County include the Honeycombs (located between Ten Sleep and Worland), Cedar Mountain (south of Winchester and shared with Hot Springs County) and Bobcat Draw (in the northwest corner of the county, shared with Big Horn County).

Once committee recommendations have been formalized and approved by the county commission, the final recommendations of the WPLI will be sent to a federal delegation for introduction in the U.S. House and Senate in 2018.

“In essence,” noted Anderson, “WSA rules state that you can do anything in these areas that doesn’t detract from the wilderness, so you can hunt, hike, ride horses, but there are limitations on building new roads or repairing anything current. The minerals in these areas are also unavailable for leasing.”

The Washakie County Advisory Committee is comprised of representatives of non-motorized recreation, motorized recreation, agriculture and ranching, sportsmen, energy interests, conservation and environmental concerns, the local conservation district and the general public.

In February, the county commission appointed applicants Dan Rice, Shawn Christenson, Justin Smith, Richard Kroger, Dru Bower, Dwight Maryland, and Karen Fenton to the committee, with Ron Harvey, Aaron Anderson, Stan Wostenberg, Kaylea Matlock, and Chris Grimes as committee alternates. Wostenberg has since moved to a committee seat.

According to the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, Wyoming is currently home to 15 designated wilderness areas, covering more than 4 million acres. The Bureau of Land Management also manages 42 WSAs for a total of 577,000 acres of public land. The Forest Service manages three WSAs, adding another 130,000 acres.

Under the WPLI, all 23 counties have been invited to participate in the initiative, and each Board of County Commissioners will decide if their county will join the effort. Each county will create a County Advisory Team, made up of members from agriculture, conservation, energy, recreation districts and county commissioners to review and designate the lands in their area, according to a WCCA press release.


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