PINEDALE -- People packed into the
Sublette County Library Tuesday to bend the federal government's ear about its cooperation
-- or lack thereof -- with local communities and organizations.
Comments during the three-hour meeting included criticism about the Endangered Species
Act, criticism about expansive energy development, suggestions for reforming the National
Environmental Policy Act, and criticism of heavy-handed federal rule.
Dan Budd, a cattle rancher, told representatives of the Department of Interior and
Environmental Protection Agency that the concept of cooperation was "a farce."
"We cooperate, you dictate," he said. He said it seemed the only reason for the
federal government to issue cattle grazing permits is to have someone to punish.
The federal "listening
session" -- one of a series being held around the country -- aimed to give citizens
"an opportunity to exchange ideas on incentives, partnership programs, and
regulations that can improve results" in communities. Promoting cooperation and
eliminating barriers to cooperation are the key areas, according to the Interior
The department controls management of much of Wyoming through the Bureau of Land
Management and National Park Service.
Dr. Tom Johnston, Sublette County health officer, said the federal government should look
more closely at the aggregate effects of policies. Specifically, he said the BLM continues
to approve more and more projects that "are environmentally unsound and present human
Johnston said increased energy development and air pollution, combined with permitting of
development at Fremont Lake -- Pinedale's source of drinking water -- shows a
"federal stubborn refusal" to listen to local will and health issues.
"This suggests to me that Washington supervisors are less concerned with the near- or
far-term public health issues" than they are with economic gains, the doctor said to
Several members of American Indian tribes said there needs to be more emphasis on
"multiple use," rather than exclusively energy development.
Wes Martel, representing the Wind River Indian Reservation tribes, said the government
needs to recognize special places including the Jack Morrow Hills, Red Desert and Adobe
Representatives of industry also took their time at the microphone to talk about how their
companies are working to protect the environment. Conservation and interest groups also
used the opportunity to talk about their work.
Mark Peterson, an environmental issues specialist for the Utah Farm Bureau, said he
supported voluntary, incentive-based programs versus regulatory requirements. That
sentiment was echoed by some industry representatives.
Louise Lasley, with the Wildlife Conservation Society, said public input is key when
making public land decisions, and geography should not restrict who can provide input.
Others, including Sublette County Commissioner John Linn and Tyler Vanderhoff with a
consulting group, said the National Environmental Policy Act needs to be changed.
Vanderhoff said there should be a time limit on how long environmental reviews of proposed
development take, and federal agencies should be more careful to develop environmental
reviews that are appropriate. He said often a larger review is used when a more curtailed
review is appropriate.
Linn also echoed statements that more decisions should be made on a local level, and once
issues reach Washington, D.C., local people are in a more defensive stance.
Pam Dewell with The Nature Conservancy said Wyoming needs to "hang on to what we
already have." She said science is needed in how to mitigate the effects of the
energy boom. "Reward good stewardship," she said.
Daniel resident Perry Walker told federal officials turf boundaries by different agencies
are an "impediment to effective stewardship." He called it a "sorry
situation" and "regulatory gridlock," and called for an internal audit of
regulatory methods by federal agencies.
Lois Herbst with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association said "bureaucracy is rampant
in our government today." She criticized the government for not listening to Wyoming
when wolves were reintroduced to Wyoming.
"We have a voice here in Wyoming that you could have cooperated with," she said.
People can't use permits on federal land because of grizzly bears and wolves, and she
wanted to see an accounting of costs of the Endangered Species Act. "The total public
is never given the total cost and impact to communities and to private landowners."
The value of irrigation should be made known to the public, and other values ranchers give
to public lands, she said to applause.
Other states hosting the listening sessions include Texas, California, Georgia, Florida,
Pennsylvania and Maine.
Environmental reporter Whitney Royster can be reached at (307) 734-0260 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.