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Mann: Ask candidates how they intend to vote on public lands

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I once wrote a novel about a society threatened by insufficient water. At stake was their way of the life. The editor, from an East Coast publishing house, was baffled. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I just can’t imagine water being that important.”

I come from Nevada, where nothing grows unless you ferociously guard your water rights and make every drop count. Water mattered to me. I know how important it can be, so I wrote about it.

As I’ve tracked the series of land grab bills supported by the Wyoming Legislature since 2013, I cacn’t help but think there are a lot of people living on the East Coast without any public lands, to whom the loss of access is theoretical. Maybe they even feel that Wyoming has more public land than we know what to do with.

I know what I do with these lands. I have had unencumbered access to thousands of acres in Wyoming where I explore, fish, ride horses, hunt grouse with my bow and help neighbors move cows. These public lands never care that I have taken low-paying jobs or that my medical bills skyrocketed. I am allowed to run through sagebrush and shed my concerns. The gates have no locks. The parking lots do not require that I show my membership card. I do not have to fit into a particular income bracket or social club.

If these efforts succeed and public lands are transferred to state control, you and I will need those membership cards. We will be forced to turn around at locked gates. History is clear: States sell land. Land is worth good cash, and governments need funding.

I fell in love with a local, so Wyoming was my home for over a decade and is likely to be so again. As a native of another state in which our public lands are immense, and where I watched helplessly as state lands have been sold to the highest bidder, I feel the urge to shout (something I rarely do): Pay attention to your candidates! Ask them how they will cast their votes for our public lands.



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