Select Committee on Federal Natural Resources stays involved in variety of issues
Cheyenne – The Wyoming Capitol Building hosted the Nov. 20 meeting of the Select Committee on Federal Natural Resources.
Committee members include Senators Eli Bebout, Gerald Geis and Jim Anderson and Representatives Tim Stubson, Stan Blake and Norine Kasperik. The group heard about topics ranging from the Wyoming Basin Rapid Ecosystem Assessment and prairie dog management to Environmental Protection Agency regulations and updates from Governor Mead.
Jerimiah Reiman, policy advisor for Governor Mead, reported that the Governor’s Office has been active in pursuing a number of intiatives to improve private lands.
“The Governor announced last week that we would have a task force on Forest Health,” he said. “This isn’t new in terms of concept.”
The idea of a group of citizens and leaders to focus on forest health has reached back a number of years.
“We expect they will meet four to five times throughout the year, with their first meeting on Dec. 18-20 in Cheyenne,” Reiman continued. “The Governor has requested that they consider fire, forest management and market innovation.”
In addition, an overall assessment of the health of Wyoming’s forests is requested, including the threat of the bark beetle.
“Another topic will be opportunities to expedite improvement on the health of our forests, through things such as grazing, watershed protection, timbering and utilization of our forest waste,” he said.
Meetings will move throughout the state and involve a wide variety of stakeholders.
Yellowstone winter use
Reiman also marked work on the rule detailing winter use of Yellowstone National Park has been positive.
“Just this last month, Yellowstone National Park finalized its rule for winter use, and it is under a new concept that hasn’t be tried,” Reiman explained.
Under the rule, one snow coach will be equivalent to seven to eight snowmobiles in terms of their impact on wildlife, air and other resources.
“Starting the season of 2014-15, 110 transportation events will be allowed into the park,” he said.
Each transportation event, explained Reiman, includes the entry of one snow coach or no more than 10 snowmobiles into the park.
The requirement that snowmobiles be guided by a commercial guide is no longer in place.
Over-snow use will still be entirely guided, but Reiman said, “For the first time in more than 15 years, a private citizen could go into the park as a non-commercial guide.”
To obtain a non-commercial guide permit, citizens would be required to take an educational course.
Logistics of how the procedures to obtain a permit are still being hashed out, but Reiman noted they will be finalized prior to the 2014-15 season.
The committee also discussed the Federal Natural Resources Policy Account (FNRPA) and its abilities to fund projects beyond the current efforts.
“Are there other ways to employ the funds from FNRPA that might make sense?” asked Stubson.
Topics such as lands with wilderness characteristics identified in resource management plans may also fall within the purview of the account.
“At this point, we haven’t denied any applications,” Reiman noted, adding that other projects may be funded at the discretion of the Governor’s Board. “The question is whether the account could afford to support all of these things.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.