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Teton commissioner asks Cheney to back off on public land issues

JACKSON — At least one Teton County commissioner has rebuked U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s legislative intervention in a county-led land management planning process.


February 14, 2018

JACKSON — At least one Teton County commissioner has rebuked U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s legislative intervention in a county-led land management planning process.

Mark Newcomb, chairman of the county board, has drafted a letter requesting the first-term congresswoman withdraw a bill that would directly affect management of Teton County lands being reviewed through the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative.

The economist and former climbing guide waffled for weeks before typing the missive, which will go before the other four commissioners.

“I heard from a lot of people, mostly conservation-oriented people, that our silence was deafening,” Newcomb said, “and that by not writing a letter no one knew whether we were just choosing to sit back or if we didn’t care if her bill was passed.”

Newcomb said he wanted to support Teton County’s WPLI advisory committee. Some members have felt undercut by Cheney’s proposed legislation, though the committee did not unanimously support having Teton County write a letter.

“I think the multiple-use advocates are really the only ones that have not expressed some kind of concern over that legislation,” Newcomb said.

Teton County’s draft letter is confined to critiquing Cheney’s H.R. 4697, an amendment to the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act that would establish snowmobiling, dirt-bike riding and mountain biking as unconfined uses in the Palisades, Shoal Creek and High Lakes wilderness study areas.

Introduced in December, the bill also would trump a court order that limits heli-skiing on the Palisades and force the Bridger-Teton National Forest to permit no fewer than 1,200 heli-skiing days in the mountainous area — nearly 20 times the current limit.

The bill caught Teton County’s WPLI advisory committee off guard, because it hit a year and a half into its negotiations about what to do with Palisades and other federal lands.

Cheney also has another bill in the works that could have even broader implications for the WPLI process.

Commissioner Paul Vogelheim has spoken with the congresswoman about the pending legislation. He was told that the county’s WPLI recommendations could be included in the bill if they are finalized quickly.

“That’s what she has indicated,” Vogelheim said. “Rep. Cheney did say she wanted to represent the wishes of Teton County.”

The next two WPLI advisory committee meetings, he said, will be “really critical.” The group is set to meet 2-6 p.m. Wednesday at the Bridger-Teton supervisor’s office on North Cache Street.

Vogelheim opposes sending Cheney an “aggressive letter” because he worries it will compromise Teton County’s ability to collaborate with Lincoln County on a recommendation for the Palisades, which spans the two counties.

Commissioners from Lincoln County and Teton County, Idaho, have mailed their respective congressional delegations letters opposing officially designating any new wilderness areas.

“This is a little bit delicate,” Vogelheim said. “I just want us to slow down.”


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