Green River Star -

Our View: Senate vote is concerning

 


Last week, a group in the U.S. Senate, including both of Wyoming’s senators, voted to support state efforts to buy national forests, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas.

The vote, which is a symbolic vote and thankfully not carrying any legal weight, was a budgetary amendment called SA 838. We’re also thankful that national parks, preserves and monuments can’t be sold, though we’re sure it would be political suicide to travel down that route.

The idea of purchasing federal land was kicked around the Wyoming Legislature during the session and resulted in a state-funded study approved to research the issue further. This vote adds more support to an idea that doesn’t have the nation’s citizens’ best interest at heart.

Selling public lands to the state would ultimately hurt the idea of multiple use and eliminate access to land traditionally enjoyed by sportsmen, campers and ATV enthusiasts. A person can camp on federally-owned land, though not so much on state lands. Hunters would especially be impacted because any federal land going into state hands would most likely be prefaced for mineral exploration. Mineral exploration isn’t inherently bad, but it could lock up large parcels of land for a singular use.

A move to sell public lands to the state also hurts Wyoming’s tourism industry. The previously mentioned argument regarding mineral exploration applies here too, however state parks and the lack of camping opportunities within them definitely limits their appeal for some.

One of the larger issues at hand, if the state does end up wanting to purchase public lands, is Wyoming doesn’t have a budget large enough to administer them as well as the Bureau of Land Management or National Forest Service. In fact, the state is already looking at reduced income due to the drop in natural gas and oil values. Having money to purchase land from the federal government might be a difficult proposition unless the legislature decides to open up its heavily-guarded rainy day fund.

What’s more disappointing than the thought of the state taking over federal land and ultimately limiting access to that land is the idea that Wyoming’s senators voted in favor of a bill completely against the values many residents across the Cowboy State have. Outdoor recreation, regardless of it being fishing, hunting or camping is an activity that runs deep through many families living here.

Seeing a vote turned in by Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso that goes against the traditions public lands have granted us is definitely cause for concern.

 

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