Circles on a Map
Our state’s landscape is rapidly changing. Some of those changes are good, and some are bad – it’s all in the eye of the beholder. Change is a normal happening that goes with any state as rich in energy sources as Wyoming is.
As with all states or counties, to manage growth there has to be planning amongst citizens and others involved in the planning process, and with all planning processes there are correct methods and those that seem to create controversy.
At times, any planning can create controversy. Some think it means zoning from the get-go, or control of private lands and the associated rights we all hold in reverence; we all know zoning won’t fly in Wyoming. In hearing about planning or a visioning process, sometimes we tend to obsess about the possibilities and ignore the probabilities. I have always liked the program Gov. Freudenthal initiated, known as “Building the Wyoming We Want,” and I hope Gov. Mead will continue with it.
A local version of Building the Wyoming We Want, known as the High Plains Initiative, is currently taking place in Goshen and Platte counties and has some area landowners concerned about the outcome. We hope that a number of landowners are involved, and we see that the county commissioners are closely watching the results. Those two counties are predicted to change in the near future, with the potential oil and wind development, so a visioning process now is well timed. Ranchers and farmers need to be involved to protect themselves and their rights – remember, it is always easier to have an opinion of someone else’s land. Also, those who have just moved into our state always seem to have an opinion of how they want Wyoming to look.
Those of us who live in the western part of the state remember a time when we would read the local paper and see a map of our area, and right on our ranch there would be a circle drawn around both private and public lands. Most of those circles have become potential wilderness areas, Areas of Concern or even sage grouse core areas, and most were bigger than necessary. It can be your worst nightmare.
One process we think needs to be watched is the 2010 survey conducted in Albany, Carbon and Sweetwater counties by the Wyoming chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the University of Wyoming’s Ruckelshaus Institute. It details the places in those counties that people care about in regard to wildlife, habitat, water supplies and agriculture. In their words, the study is “in attempt to help with future land use by identifying a collective social vision.” The results have phrases like “social values,” “social preferences” and “collective social preferences.” Those words don’t pass the taste test for this American. Time will tell if their goals are ok, but to see their maps with the results has got to be a concern to landowners whose private lands are involved without their input.
We all have ideas of what we would like our counties, Wyoming and our neighbor’s lands to look like, but in reality, protecting private land rights is more important, and those who live in urban areas need to respect those rights.