Teton County WPLI

In 2016, Mountain Bike the Tetons joined a voluntary, collaborative, county-led process intended to result in one, multi-county legislative lands package that is broadly supported by public lands stakeholders in Wyoming.  The ultimate goal is a new federal law that governs the designation and management of Wyoming’s Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs); and, where possible, addresses and pursues other public land management issues and opportunities affecting Wyoming’s landscape.

09/08/2017 Update:

From Amanda Carey, Mountain Bike the Tetons WPLI Board Represenative

The Wyoming Public Lands Committee work continues to move at a deliberate pace. The committee did not meet in July and the August meeting was full-day field trip to tour the Palisades WSA. There hasn’t been a trip to the Shoal Creek WSA. Our next meeting is September 13 from 2-6pm at the new BTNF building. The committee meets the 2nd Wednesday of each month and now meets 4 hours at a time instead of the original 3. The Ruckelhaus Institute continues to to a fantastic job mediating and directing the process to ensure we stay on task and stay within the timeline and committee charter. Public comment is taken at every meeting starting at 5:30.

The Teton County WPLI committee remains in “information gathering” mode. We are still gathering info, data and additional maps and each committee member has clearly lined out his/her constituency’s interests and options. For mountain bikers, I’ve presented our 3 main interests as keeping access to the trails currently open to mountain bikes, having the ability to maintain/reroute/improve those routes and to have the ability to establish new routes. The main goal of spending ample time on interests and options is to ensure we understands everyone’s interests before we discuss designations.

As of yet, no designations have been discussed. This is important to remember as I think it’s been swirling in the recreation community that wilderness is imminent of we don’t “do something to stop it”. The committee is firmly dedicated to a thorough process, and that means no designations have been discussed at this point of the process. It’s no secret that there are committee members that of course would prefer a full Wilderness designation. But, my gut tells me that after a year of meetings there’s not a person in that room that thinks Palisades has a legitimate shot of going full Wilderness. There’s simply too much recreation engrained in that area and general public comment is against it. Time will tell but as it’s a consensus based committee, one vote can block that from happening.

I’ve cultivated strong relationships on the committee and continue to maintain that open line of communication with all representatives. I’ve chosen to steer clear of the Advocates for Multi-Use of Public Lands group. I’ve attending (and spoken at) a few of their meetings. My job on the committee is to represent mountain bikers and mountain bikers only. I felt like if I was to work with that group, there would be an assumption I was there to advocate for multi-use (summer/winter motorized, etc.) Mountain bikers have different interests than the motorized community. Other recreation committee members are steering clear of that group for the same reason. There’s a tone of fear mongering coming from them as well and although I understand where they are coming from, I don’t think teaming up with them is necessary at this time.
What I do fear is that this tone of panic from the recreation community could help put a halt to the process overall which I think may be the worst outcome possible. If the WPLI process is abandoned, we lose our best shot at getting ride of WSA once and for all. If things stay status quo (keeping Palisades as WSA), all it would take is one simple lawsuit (which I’ve learned from a few sides could be very easily argued) to sue the USFS for the way it’s been allowing use in the WSA, resulting in mountain bikers losing access. This, I would think, would be the Wilderness community’s back up plan if a new designation fails and WSA remains. A few wilderness folks outside of the process have voiced to me that keeping WSA is better than nothing, as it still gives Palisades some federal protections and there’s a strong argument to be made that current use is illegal. I don’t think any other constituency thinks WSA would constitute a good outcome, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep the WPLI process positive and productive and to let us do our jobs.
When it comes time to talk about designations (hopefully by winter) I’ll have more to report.

How will this affect me?

The two affected areas within our immediate area are the Palisades Wilderness Study Area and the Shoal Creek Wilderness Study Area.

This following trails could be permanently lost to a Wilderness Designation.
Mike Sell
Mail Cabin
Black Canyon

How can you help?

There are several ways for the public to participate in the WPLI process:

  1. Submit your comments using the Comment Form
  2. Make geo-tagged comments on the WPLI Comment Mapper
  3. Attend a Teton County WPLI Committee Meeting and participant in the Public Comments during the last 30 minutes. The schedule for upcoming meetings is on the Calendar
  4. Reach out to individual committee members and have a direct one-on-one conversation

What is the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative?

A Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is a special designation that applies to federal lands that are managed to protect wilderness characteristics until Congress designates the WSA as wilderness or directs the land management agency to manage the area for other multiple uses.  There are 45 WSAs in Wyoming. Three are managed by the US Forest Service (two in Teton County) and 43 are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (none in Teton County).

In early 2016 the Wyoming County Commissioners Association (WCCA) organized the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative (WPLI).  The WPLI is a collaborative, county-led process intended to designate WSAs as wilderness, multiple use, or other management.  The result will be one state-wide legislative lands package that is broadly supported by public lands stakeholders in Wyoming.

Teton County WPLI Advisory Committee

The Teton County Board of Commissioners appointed the Teton County WPLI Advisory Committee in October 2016. The advisory committee is composed of representatives of a diversity of interests, and is mandated to develop recommendations for final designation of the county’s three WSAs — ranging from multiple use to designation as designated Wilderness to many options in between. While WSA designations will serve as the launching pad and anchor for the WPLI advisory committee, the committee is encouraged to look more broadly at long-standing land use challenges and opportunities where possible.

Partners of the WPLI Board

Interest CategoryNameOrganization
Conservation–LocalPat KearneyGreater Yellowstone Coalition
Siva SunderesonJackson Hole Conservation Alliance
Conservation–StateLisa McGeeWyoming Outdoor Council
Steve KilpatrickWyoming Wild Sheep & Wyoming Wildlife Federation
Conservation–NationalLloyd DorseySierra Club Wyoming
Dan SmithermanThe Wilderness Society
Recreation–Mountain BicyclingAmanda CareyMountain Bike the Tetons
Recreation–Summer MotorizedGreg BuchkoDIRT
Recreation–Winter MotorizedMike MielkeJackson Hole Snow Devils
Commercial–Winter MotorizedJim WoodmencyMountain Weather
Industry–Oil/GasJohn Hebberger Jr.Chevron Corporation (Retired)
Guides/OutfittersDave HodgesJH Llamas Guide
Ag/RanchingWilliam ResorLand Manager (Self-Employed)
General PublicAbigail MooreY2 Consultants
Mike BrennanTexas A&M Universtiy Institute of Renewable Natural Resources
Bruce HayseSelf-Employed
Don SanerBack Country Horsemen of America
David SollittCommunications Consultant
Harry StatterFirewise Landscapes Inc.
Tom TurianoSelf-Employed
Rob ShaulMountain Tactical Institute/Mountain Athlete