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By Marcus Huff
Staff Writer 

Commissioners discuss WPLI recommendations; no action taken


August 23, 2018

WORLAND – Washakie County Commissioners met Tuesday to hear department reports, and reviewed recommendations made by the county’s Wyoming Public Lands Initiative working group.

Attended by only a few members of the WPLI working group, Commissioner Aaron Anderson noted during the meeting that the WPLI recommendation process “was more challenging than I thought it would be.”

The original goal of the WPLI group was to reach a consensus as to the use of the Wilderness Study Areas 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.

Recognizing that the final recommendations didn’t meet the approval of outside groups with conservation concerns, Commissioner Fred Frandson noted that the commission would have to “take time to digest a few things,” and that no recommendations would be made by the commission at this time, allowing more time for talks and a possible decision on Sept. 4, when Hot Springs commissioners will present their recommendations for Cedar Mountain (the WSA shares a boundary with both Hot Springs and Washakie County).

Under the WPLI, all 23 Wyoming counties have been invited to participate in the initiative, and each Board of County Commissioners decided if their county will join the effort. Each county choosing to participate created 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.

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.

Members included Dan Rice, Shawn Christenson, Justin Smith, Richard Kroger, Dru Bower, Dwight Mayland, Karen Fenton, Ron Harvey, Aaron Anderson, Stan Wostenberg, Kaylea Matlock, and C.J. Grimes.

Representatives of the Wilderness Society, The Yellowstone Coalition, Trout Unlimited and the Wyoming Outdoors Council have provided public input and also observed the meetings.

The WPLI group also

received written comments from organizations including The Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited, Washakie County Conservation District, Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, Wyoming Outdoor Council and the Wyoming State Grazing Board.

Although in May the group agreed on wording to move forward with recommendations, on Wednesday, some representatives changed their votes, effectively recommending striping one area of its wilderness study area designation.

The original proposals, which were submitted for public comment last month, included for the Honeycombs WSA, located 16 miles southeast of Worland and encompassing 21,000 acres of BLM- administered lands, the group identified 10,000 acres of primarily the “Hoodoo” region, to be protected due to the unique rock formations and landscape, while the remainder of the WSA would be soft-released to a regular Resource Management Plan under legislation.

Highlights of the recommendation included protection of existing grazing and range improvements, limited motorized access and road development, and protection of scenic rock formations and public use.

The recommendation was changed however, after group members voted to release the entire area to Range Management Plan protections under the Bureau of Land Management.

As a nod to conservation efforts, the group designated 5,000 acres in Bobcat Draw as a wilderness area, although the move didn’t pacify some of the environmental groups in attendance.

“At the end of the day,” noted Anderson on Tuesday, “you send something to [Washington] D.C. and hope you get back something similar to what you sent.”

The commission will revisit the recommendations on September 4.


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