Hope It Fails
As I wrote this column last week, I was watching the webcast of the U.S. House of Representative’s Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing on H.R. 980, the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA).
This is the same House Committee that two weeks ago held a committee markup on legislation to amend the Wild Free-roaming Horses and Burros Act, H.R. 1018. Despite well-thought-out, common sense amendments brought forth by our own Representative Cynthia Lummis, public lands ranchers didn’t fare too well.
While there are more Democrats than Republicans on the Subcommittee, and I’m sure the Democratic leadership of the Congress is in support of the bill, what really stands out while listening is the total lack of knowledge by most of the Committee when it comes to federal lands. Even the bill’s sponsor doesn’t understand the impacts of wilderness, the management or lack of management, or everything that comes along with a wilderness designation.
Even the legislation’s primary sponsor, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), admitted that the only community she had visited in Wyoming was Cheyenne, at least six hours away from the proposed wilderness areas. As you and I know, there’s quite a big difference between Cheyenne and Pinedale in terms of land patterns. This bill does have 75 congressional sponsors from 35 states, but none of the sponsors live in the impacted areas. I wonder what our founding fathers would have to say about that, but then again after the last few months, they have to be speechless. Rep. Maloney and others have pushed this bill for 19 years and they still don’t recognize the impacts of it to local communities and states. The reality of all of this is that it really isn’t a bill or legislation; it is an agenda that is being pushed on us.
They must not fully appreciate or care about the impacts. There will be 1,800 miles of streams and close to 24 million acres (five million in Wyoming) that would be designated as wilderness. Their arguments for this action range from protecting ecosystem to preventing global warming to providing jobs rehabilitating roads. They claim the reduced management will save the nation money. I’m not convinced we need more wilderness area to save the earth.
Year after year, this legislation makes its way before Congress with the sponsors modifying their reasons for supporting it. Congresswoman Lummis and her like-minded colleagues have a tough job addressing issues like this. I support Cynthia in that fight and hope you do, too.
We were also lucky to have Joel Bousman, County Commissioner and rancher from Sublette County, testify before the subcommittee. His five minutes of testimony and answers to questions had more common sense and reality than others on his panel, but then again Joel lives what he speaks. We appreciate him taking time away from his ranch and county.
These are difficult times to fight legislation like this and the wild horse bill just a week earlier. We owe it to ourselves, our children, Rep. Lummis, Joel and others, to fight both of these bills.