JACKSON — After two years of monthly meetings, all 18 county-appointed members of the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative committee walked away Wednesday in disagreement.
Committee members blamed a lack of collaboration and compromise for the failure to come up with a shared vision for two wilderness study areas in Teton County.
“We committed in this process to compromise, and I do not see any compromise other than token concessions,” Abigail Moore, who represented the general public, told her fellow committee members.
Teton County Board of County Commissioners Chairman Mark Newcomb asked the committee to come up with a single recommendation, but instead his board will receive three plans to review.
“If there’s not one recommendation, the commission has not said what they’re going to do,” Newcomb told the group Wednesday.
Some members were displeased by how some of their counterparts conducted business. Fingers were pointed at the inability of pro-motorized recreation and wilderness advocacy representatives to meaningfully negotiate and respect other interest groups’ positions.
John Hebberger Jr., the group’s petroleum industry representative, said he voted firmly against motorized and wilderness-centric recommendations because he was cut out of their deliberations.
“The charter that we all signed required this to have been a collaborative process,” Hebberger told fellow committee members. “There are some things that I like in all [the plans], and there are a lot of things that I could live with. The reason that I voted [to block] the two other proposals is because I was never, ever once invited to provide input into the other proposals.”
When Teton County commissioners elected to partake in the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative in 2016, they assembled an advisory committee that was by far the largest of the eight counties that participated in the Wyoming County Commissioners Association’s planning effort. The group’s task was to chart a future for the Palisades and Shoal Creek wilderness study areas. The two swaths of the Bridger-Teton National Forest were set aside for their wilderness qualities 34 years ago, but have been tagged with a classification that was supposed to be temporary ever since.
The committee opted to open the envelope further, concocting recommendations for national forest outside of the wilderness study areas. The exercise proved a challenge for the large group, especially because it was supposed to be consensus-based.
Teton County commisioners will have the option of choosing one recommendation, gluing parts of each proposal together or bowing out of the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative.
A public comment period on the three plans is set to start Aug. 17, and commissioners will hear from a spokesperson for each proposal at their Aug. 20 meeting. Commissioners will vote on what to do at their Sept. 18 meeting, Newcomb said.
Of the three plans, one was collaborative in nature. This proposal, dubbed MAWG for a mixed-bag working group that met at committee member Rob Shaul’s Mountain Athlete gym, garnered the most support, although a third of the committee still voted to block it.
Thirteen of 18 committee members voted to block a proposal advanced by snowmobile representative Mike Mielke, a board member of the group Advocates for Multi-Use of Public Lands.
A Teton Wildlands Conservation Plan, advanced by Sierra Club representative Lloyd Dorsey and general public representative Bruce Hayse, also fared poorly in front of the group as a whole. Seven of 18 members voted to block it.