Sublette WSAs appear in ‘new’ wilderness bill

Three Sublette

wilderness study areas that were topics of

years-long local and state efforts to re-designate

or release them are three of many in the

new version of the Northern Rockies Ecosystem

Protection Act.

The Act, introduced Feb. 22 by Rep. Carolyn

B Maloney (D-NY) as HR 1321, was

referred to the House Committee on Natural

Resources. It then went to its subcommittee

on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

Its purpose is “to designate certain National

Forest System lands and certain public

lands under the jurisdiction of the Secretary

of the Interior in the states of Idaho, Montana,

Oregon, Washington and Wyoming as

wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, wildland

recovery areas and biological connecting corridors,

and for other purposes.”

It specifically calls for the Shoal Creek

and Lake Mountain and unnamed wilderness

study areas in the Bridger-Teton National

Forest to be incorporated into the Teton,

Bridger and Gros Ventre wildernesses. These

two as well as the Scab Creek WSA were

studied, visited and discussed by the Sublette

advisory committee for the Wyoming Public

Lands Initiative.

With its eight members representing different

interests unable to reach total consensus

on any single proposal, the Sublette WPLI

committee presented its standoff status to the

Sublette County Board of Commissioners last

year. Commissioners took no action, referring

to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s expected legislation

to release all Forest Service and Bureau

of Land Management WSAs to their respective

land-management plans.

Cheney spokeswoman Maddy Weast said

of Maloney’s bill: "Congresswoman Cheney

is working with county commissioners and

local stakeholders from across Wyoming to

address the decades-long WSA issue in our


She said Cheney “actively opposes the bill

… which is just the latest example of liberal

legislators thinking they know what's best for

us all. It is an effort to placate far-left environmental

extremist groups at the expense of

those living in Wyoming and other western


“Cheney will continue to fight any attempt

by outside environmental groups to use their

liberal allies in Congress to push policies

aimed at destroying our western way of life,”

Weast concluded.

Longtime Sublette County Commissioner

Joel Bousman said this is not the first time

Maloney, from New York, has tried to introduce

a sweeping wilderness bill that doesn’t

make much sense for Wyoming.

“A few years ago (she) helped sponsor

a bill that would have added significant

amounts of wilderness to the western states,

including Wyoming,” Bousman said. “It included

a lot of the Wyoming Range as well

as making wilderness to the forest boundary

which included Fremont Lake and Lakeside

Lodge. It was a horrible bill with tremendous

negative economic consequences and was referred

to as HR 980, The Northern Rockies

Ecosystem Protection Act, and would have

added 6.514 million acres of wilderness, regardless

of the unsuitability and failure to

meet the wilderness criteria outlined in the

1964 Wilderness Act.”

Bousman testified then before the House

Natural Resource Committee against HR

980; it never passed from the House of Representatives.

He believes “this is a smaller attempt to

help meet part of that original goal. … I recommend

total opposition to HR 1321 from

Wyoming and the western states.”

Dan Smitherman, former Sublette WPLI

co-chair and The Wilderness Society state

manager, agreed this bill “in one form or another

has been introduced several times over

several years,” adding TWS was not consulted

or involved.

“It probably has almost no chance of going

anywhere,” Smitherman added. “It might get

a markup or hearing in the House with Democrats

in charge but that is probably it.”

Maloney’s bill calls for secretaries of Agriculture

and the Interior to set up an interagency


It proposes adding 32,000 FS acres from

the Shoal Creek WSA into the Gros Ventre

Wilderness. About 230,000 acres of BLM

lands would go into the Bridger Wilderness.

The 17,000-acre Lake Mountain Wilderness

would be created from BLM’s current WSA,

which was the only area most Sublette WPLI

members agreed had few wilderness characteristics.

For the Palisades WSA, about 224,000

acres in the BTNF and Caribou-Targhee National

Forest become the Palisades Wilderness.

Maloney’s bill proposes 18,000 acres

for the Monument Ridge Wilderness, 245,000

acres for the Salt River Ridge Range Wilderness

and 143,000 acres for the Commissary

Ridge Wilderness, among others.

The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection

Act also calls for segments of western

Wyoming rivers to be designated “Wild and

Scenic” – including 10 miles of the Hoback,

12 miles of the Salt and parts of the Thorofare

and Yellowstone rivers.


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