|Saturday, May 27, 2017
By John Spina
Jackson Hole Daily
The Wyoming Republican Party has openly supported the movement to transfer control of federal public lands into state hands.
On Friday the Teton County Republican Party announced it would oppose such a transfer.
“The Republican Party has a long legacy of conservation that we should be proud of,” said Paul Vogelheim, chairman of the county party and a Teton County commissioner. “In a way, that has been abandoned in recent years. It’s time to reignite that tradition within the party.”
The Teton County Republicans’ stance on federal lands is based largely on fiscal responsibility. According to a study released by Jackson Hole’s Y2 Consultants in October, the state simply doesn’t have enough money to properly manage the 25 million acres of public land the federal government manages in Wyoming.
Not only does state control present problems for fighting wildfires, an effort that requires massive sums of public money, but the state would also need to pay for exponentially more manpower and be forced to navigate miles of bureaucratic red tape and legal precedence.
“The wholesale transfer just doesn’t make financial sense,” Vogelheim said. “It’s an emotional issue, but if you step back and look at the facts, we simply can’t afford to do the same job.”
While the county Republican party is opposed to the wholesale transfer of federal public lands, it still supports appropriate ways for local governments to influence management of those lands.
For example, Teton County commissioners are involved with the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative, which is examining what to do with 45 wilderness study areas throughout the state. Two lie within Teton County. The initiative has convened some 20 user groups to talk about whether any of the areas should be converted to wilderness. By the fall of 2019, the groups plan to make recommendations to the U.S. Senate.
Also, in 2004 the Bureau of Land Management approached local officials about Teton County taking control of 24 remnant parcels scattered along the Snake River from the southern boundary of Grand Teton National Park to the South Park Bridge south of the town of Jackson. A multiagency task force that included Teton County and the BLM explored options for public ownership and ultimately decided that Teton County was best suited to assume ownership.
“We can find common ground,” Vogelheim said. “There are areas we can improve upon, but the feds are doing a pretty darn good job.”
Article at Jackson Hole Daily: www.jhnewsandguide.com