By Kerin Clark (Written May 2009)
Speaking on a panel about the importance of county government involvement in federal land issues, United States Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) told attendees at the Wyoming Farm Bureau Foundation May 29 Symposium “…it is absolutely essential that local producers get involved.” United States Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) also spoke at the symposium noting how important it is for county governments to be involved in federal planning.
“If you combine all of the public lands in the Western states it is equivalent to all of the land in the Eastern states combined,” Representative Lummis stated. “We have a disproportionate burden in the West for having a role in how Federal lands are managed and our right to have a role is guaranteed in federal law.”
Representative Lummis commended the gathering of county officials and agriculture producers at the recent Wyoming Farm Bureau Foundation Symposium held in Casper. “Discussing how to exercise those rights is absolutely essential in how farmers and ranchers can get involved,” Lummis explained. “If you don’t assert those rights, the federal government will not come asking you to assert those rights.”
Representative Lummis learned first-hand about the importance of county government involvement when she worked for former Wyoming Governor Geringer in helping more Wyoming counties gain cooperating agency status.
“During that time it became clear that county government involvement is important,” She explained. “I take that lesson with me to Washington.”
As a member of the Natural Resources Committee, Representative Lummis is directly involved with public lands issues. “County governments have played a large role in the issues before the Natural Resources Committee,” Representative Lummis stated.
Referencing the Wild Horse and Burro bill, Rep. Lummis said the input from county commissioners was great. “This bill would have elevated wild horses over endangered species,” She explained. “Thanks to county commissioners we had photos and we were able to show people that have never seen wild horses before, the damage they can do if uncontrolled.”
Rep. Lummis spoke about The Northern Rockies Protection Act; a bill sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney from Manhattan that proposed for 24 million acres of wilderness in Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah.
“Joel Bousman, a Sublette County commissioner, testified and did a great job using examples of people who live and work in the area being proposed for wilderness,” Lummis stated. “He was tremendously influential in that hearing process.”
“Bousman’s testimony is a perfect example of why people must tell their story in Washington, D.C.,” She continued. “It (testimony) is exactly what is need more in Washington needs.”
“Agriculture being one of Wyoming’s top three industries and being the cultural base of Wyoming makes it the most profoundly influential industry in the state,” Lummis concluded. “Not only because of what agriculture produces for food for the nation, but for the people it produces that run our communities and our country.”
County Government Panel
Joining Representative Lummis on the “County Government” panel were Jim Allen, Doug Thompson and Lee Campbell, Hot Springs County Planner.
“In Fremont County only 15 percent of the land is deeded so we rely on federal lands for our economic activity and tax base,” said Jim Allen, Fremont County Natural Resource Planning Committee Chair.
Allen emphasized that words have meaning. “You need to know the difference between coordination and cooperation. Coordination is the only tool local governments have to bring agencies to their table and have a government-to-government relationship,” He said. “Land use plans are important to protect the local custom, culture, economic viability and social stability of your communities.”
“Local input is essential for the economic future of our counties, our state and individual entities,” Fremont County Commissioner Doug Thompson stated.
Thompson added to maximize your influence in the federal planning process it is important to get involved early in the process as “interested public.”
“Expect consideration and influence. Stay involved even as tedious and time-consuming as the planning process can be,” Thompson concluded. “Be patient, but persistent. You as individuals can influence federal planning processes.”
The Wyoming Farm Bureau Foundation was organized by the members of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation in 1982 to fund educational opportunities and support scientific research needed by Wyoming's agricultural producer. The Wyoming Farm Bureau Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization which will allow for tax deductible donations from interested individuals.