Public Lands by Jessi Johnson – 2017 Winter Pronghorn

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Public Lands, By Jessi Johnson

I came on staff here at the Wyoming Wildlife Federation (WWF) in May, it has been an incredible journey from then to now.  The Public Lands Coordinator position covers a gauntlet of issues, after all our public lands cover 48% of Wyoming and include a whopping 640 million acres in the entirety of the United States.  The passion runs deep with public lands in western cultures; accessibility,  a mosaic of well managed uses, wildlife sustainability and the protection of what makes Wyoming so unique are just a few of the many issues to juggle.

WWF has been working on multiple fronts to address many of these points. We have thrown our weight full force behind the process of the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative (WPLI). This effort involves helping to educate and provide resources and data in regards to wildlife needs, habitat sustainability, and sportsmen values.  Many counties have their process in full swing; Park, Fremont, Teton, Sublette, Johnson, Carbon, Washakie and a specific committee for Fortification Creek.  These committees include a broad range of stakeholders who are close to the land and participating in an incredible opportunity to have direct impact on federal lands management. The Wyoming County Commissioners Association has completed the first steps of a critical process; however, these processes only work when people who care invest their time, sitting at the table and discussing solutions. WWF encourages public involvement from not just sportsmen but the general public. You can find out more about WPLI on our website at, http://wyomingwildlife.org/public-lands/wpli.

Our public lands in the West are important to our quality of life so it is paramount for us to stand up for what we believe when it comes to their management and as American’s public lands.  WWF has had its nose to the grindstone working against what I believe is a short-sighted idea to transfer our federal lands to state ownership.  We took part in the Keep it Public, Wyoming rally held in Casper on Nov 5th, and came out in opposition when a constitutional amendment was proposed that would have paved the way for transfer; conversely we started a dialogue with legislators about solutions. Our voice was heard against the Bonander land exchange which would have impacted access to nearly 8,000 acres of public land. The report we commissioned with UW on the economic impacts of hunting and fishing, $25 million in Albany County in 2015, helped sway the final decision by the State Land Board voting against this exchange.

We have long been an organization that believes in the conservation of Wyoming’s wildlife and the wide open spaces with habitats so vital to their survival. This protection includes looking at solutions to the many policy issues that comes with multiple use management. This system of federal land management only works when it works for all Americans.

“I spent most of my time longing for Wyoming and the way it fed my soul with the ability to go out my door and feel wild and in touch with the earth. And, with education, age and experience I am understanding the importance that open country (such as BLM), not fragmented, is to sustaining a healthy wildlife environment which defines Wyoming’s unique issues. Exposure and connection to all of this should not be an exclusive right.” – Jenny Johnson, artist and Wyoming rancher