CONGRESSIONAL CHRONICLES

By on October 27, 2015

Citizens say ‘back off’ the public land takeover.

Reps for Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi and Rep. Cynthia Lummis fielded concerns of Jackson citizens Tuesday in town chambers, where public lands were a hot topic.

Reps for Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi and Rep. Cynthia Lummis fielded concerns of Jackson citizens Tuesday in town chambers, where public lands were a hot topic.

Landslide

Field reps from Wyoming’s D.C. delegation admitted that hardly anybody comes to their quarterly “Office Hours” soiree held in Jackson. The scheduled gripe session is poorly publicized but enough concerned citizens found their way to town hall on Tuesday morning to air a variety of concerns in front of Nikki Brunner (Sen. Mike Enzi), Pam Buline (Rep. Cynthia Lummis) and Pat Aullman (Sen. John Barrasso).

Initially, the trio of representatives expressed a desire to have audience members approach one at a time to a round table forum they had constructed at the head of the room. That way, grievances could be ensured a measure of privacy more akin to a Catholic confessional booth than a town hall-style confab. The process quickly broke down when one audience member stood up and spoke out.

“I don’t know if it’s an opinion shared by most of the people here – I think it is – but I would like to voice my support of the renewal of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act,” a concerned citizen, and presumably non-Catholic, stated to majority approval harrumphing. “I also think public lands should remain public and not be privatized.”

Audience members clapped, uproariously, in a reserved manner appropriate for the early hour.

And off they went. Most of 15 or so attendees were particularly concerned with the budget amendment passed this spring that introduced the notion of selling, transferring or trading federal lands to individual states. Whining out of Utah – whose state leaders seem intent on nothing short of succession from the Union – got the ball rolling and caught the ear of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. She sponsored the measure, which at this point is purely symbolic, but some fear it could pave the way for future legislation. Sens. Barrasso and Enzi were both on the “yea” side of the 51-49 vote.

The concern of many in attendance at office hours echoed sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts throughout the West who worry states will then sell off parcels to private developers when they realize they don’t have the budget to maintain the lands.

“I’m among the bewildered here in Wyoming when I try to understand our delegation’s position on federal lands,” said concerned citizen Lisa McGee. “It seems like they are advocating against our own interest. Of all the states, Wyoming has the most to lose.”

Another citizen agreed: “If the federal government gives away our public lands to state and private interests then we’ll lose our access. Our public lands mean so much to people in this county. Ask your bosses to please back off on their plans to support this. We can’t see a path where the transfer of public lands to the state would allow them to be better managed than they are now.”

Up a creek

Local river rat Aaron Pruzan voiced his support of Lummis’ Yellowstone and Grand Teton Paddling Act. The proposal has faced growing opposition from environmental groups, enough so that the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources has tweaked the bill more than once in recent months.

Former Grand Teton NP super Mary Gibson Scott said she opposed the bill, which she equated to pandering to faddish interests over multiple generations of conservation. She said she would also like to see a federal budget passed on time for a change.

House rules

Some in the crowd were enlightened to the Hastert Rule – an informal policy on Capitol Hill that limits the introduction of minority party bills.

“You can’t get any of the above done if you continue to have closed rules like the Hastert Rule,” complained one audience member. “You can’t govern. You haven’t been able to govern for years now because of this closed rule thing.”

Brunner, Buline, and Aullman promised constituents their concerns would be brought to their bosses in Washington. Enzi representative Brunner added that her door is always open for walk-ins. Enzi is the only Wyoming member of Congress with an office in Jackson. The field reps also gathered an email list. PJH


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