Protect our Open Spaces
“I do not intend that our natural resources shall be exploited by the few against the interests of the many.”
- Theodore Roosevelt
I hear over and over from Wyomingites about how much we love our open spaces, and the importance of protecting them. It’s a value that hunters, anglers, environmentalists, and those of us that just like looking out the window, can all agree on.
But make no mistake: our open spaces are under attack by John Barrasso and special interests who want to cut us off from our own land. They plan to do this by shifting control of Federal lands to our state, which is an easier target for them to lobby and manipulate (to try and take our land for themselves). While the BLM is far from perfect, and we need to make changes with how Federal land is managed, the solution is not to hand over the land to the state.
While John Barrasso may be for sale, our land is not. For me, this issue is not negotiable.
Most importantly, I want to protect our state’s wide open spaces for our great-grandchildren. But there are other reasons why Senator Barrasso’s plan is a bad thing for Wyoming.
First, our state faces a fiscal crisis, and is in no position to take over the financial risk of managing millions of acres of land. Not only would we be one major forest fire away from state bankruptcy, but building out the infrastructure (including thousands of new state employees and agencies) would stress a state government that should be focused on creating private sector jobs, fixing our healthcare mess, and creating a healthy state economy (all outlined in this Plan to Put Wyoming First).
Second, the effort would take years of litigation and involve Constitutional issues that would end up at the Supreme Court, costing our state tens of millions in legal fees and distracting our leaders from other more critical initiatives.
Third, it would split our state in two. I would hate to see our state divided for years over an issue that makes no financial sense, endangers our open spaces, and pits one neighbor against another. At a time when we need to come together on community issues we all agree on, we’d instead become a deeply divided state.
We are already a divided nation, we don’t need to be a divided state.
Quite simply I don’t trust our state government on this issue -- because when we get in a fiscal crisis, state government will likely have to sell off our land to pay the bills. Remember, we’re not talking about what might happen in the next several years. Once transferred to the state, the risk extends for generations. We’d be trusting our land to an uncertain future that could risk not just where we hunt, but where our grandchildren hunt. Under financial pressures, there can be no guarantee a future state governor or legislature won’t make concessions to special interests in return for short term economic gain. The temptation is too great, the role of money in politics too enormous.
Finally, we need to address the places in our state where we’ve been cut off from access to our public lands, by private landowners. I will hunt for ways to regain access to open space that has been cut off from access due to the sale or lease of parcels of land. I favor a requirement of reasonable easements over private land to maintain Wyomingites’ access to public lands for hunting, fishing, camping, or just walking around.
Of course, any access would need to protect the commercial needs of our agricultural and extraction industry, as well as the privacy of landowners. But this is Wyoming, not New York. We know how to be good neighbors, treat each other with respect, and work together to solve these issues.
I commit to insure our open spaces are protected for our great-grandchildren.
I will use Wyoming’s U.S. Senate seat to block any effort to sell or transfer ownership or management of public land to outside developers via the state government. I will carefully scrutinize any lease or transfer of our land which leads to restrictions on public access. Finally, I commit to finding neighborly solutions to creating easements to public land currently cut off from access.
- Dave Dodson