Props & Disses 2.20.13
Super’s last stand at Bridger-Teton (PROP)
Jacque Buchanan is going out in style. It’s a pity the Bridger-Teton supervisor won’t be sticking around; she’s done a lot of good things in her two-and-a-half-year stint at the helm of our local forest. And with a new regional head at the helm, now is the worst time to go. The BTNF needs some stability.
Buchanan’s heart was in the right place. She rang in the new year in 2011 with the announcement that BTNF was pulling oil/gas leases on 44,720 acres in the Wyoming Range – a decision heralded by sportsmen and conservation groups. Buchanan upheld her predecessor’s (Kniffy Hamilton) plan and the verdict was in line with the Wyoming Range Legacy Act, which protected 1.2 million acres but not the grandfathered acreage in question.
But Buchanan found out quickly who wears the pants in the USFS. Chain of command is dogmatically followed by ‘gang green.’ A decision-maker has only as much power as the guy above him or her, until the buck eventually stops in DC with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Pulling leases from the drill bit in a Republican state doesn’t sit well, especially during a recession. Cynthia Lummis was first to start chirping about the move. She undoubtedly wasn’t alone. There was also that sticky issue of coming up with money to compensate the energy companies. Regional bigwig and Buchanan’s boss, Harv Forsgren, probably had a short chat with Buchanan. She reversed her decision four months later, much the same way Forsgren reversed his decision to keep the BTNF supervisor’s office in Jackson after whoever pulls his strings had a chat with him.
But Buchanan managed to hold up energy extraction with frustrating NEPA extensions and environmental studies on lynx, mule deer, and any other critter she could think of that might be pissed off about oil rigs in their habitat. Buchanan also rightly backed off when an idea to sell one of five 40-acre tracts that comprise the 200-acre Lee Administrative Site near Trail Creek Ranch at the base of Teton Pass drew sharp criticism.
Buchanan gracefully dodged a bullet with the harebrained scheme to merge two of the largest national forests in the nation into a multi-state Gigantor. Another idea that plopped onto her desk from higher up the ladder.
The neverending supervisor’s office saga and auction of half the North Cache property was a nightmare before Buchanan got here and will still be a hot mess after she leaves. Her parting shot plan to split the Bridger-Teton HQ operations between the current office in Jackson and a new office in Alpine is a win-win solution no one seemed to hit on yet. Today’s office work is trending more and more to mobile, work-at-home, and shared space. Allowing Star Valley workers to work closer to home while keeping Jackson residents happy is genius.
Time will tell whether the plan sits well with regional forester Nora Rasure and her boss, Tom Tidwell, and his boss, Tom Vilsack.
Look this gift horse in the mouth (DISS)
The old rule in bid proposal contracting is to throw out the highest and lowest bid, especially when the low bidder is way low. City and county officials approved a $3 million bid from Blackfoot, ID-based Cannon Builders to erect a pathway bridge over the Snake River.
Save this newspaper! If that job comes in on budget, I will eat this story.
Cannon’s bid came in a million dollars less than the next closest bidder and $600,000 under what local authorities were anticipating. Red flag. Wedco owner Dennis Lamb was turned down by Cannon to be the steel fabricator sub on the project. Cannon is going with an SLC firm. So once again taxpayer money heads out-of-state during lean times for local contractors.
Lamb is beyond frustrated with the process. He’s lost bid after bid on public projects because his budgets reflect the cost of doing business in toney Jackson.
“The town and county government have made all these exactions. The cost of doing business is significantly higher for locals like me than it is for our out-of-state competitors,” Lamb says. He also questions whether town and county officials are correctly applying legislation designed to promote local construction like the Wyoming Preference Act and the Bacon-Davis Act.
The one bright spot: Officials bypassed a $4.07M bid from Wadsworth, the same outfit that hasn’t finished their last bridge over the Snake at Hoback Junction after they got into it with WYDOT.
Gas tax hike while billions sit in rainy day fund (DISS)