Sometimes we have to do it – two weeks ago I flew back to Washington D.C. – I was there for a few reasons, to attend the National Wildlife Federation annual meeting, meet with Wyoming’s elected officials and meet with the Department of Interior to talk about the recent oil and gas leasing in sage grouse core habitat, designated big game migration routes, and the Greater Little Mountain Area.
Flying out of Jackson as the sun popped over the Gros Ventres was the best part of the trip. It was followed by bad airport food, stops in Salt Lake and Atlanta, finally arriving at 7pm in DC. One bonus, I sat next to the board chair of the Alabama Wildlife Federation who gave me a ride to our hotel. A beer and prime rib later, all was better.
Wyoming, Wednesday – 9am
Every Wednesday the Wyoming delegation has an open meeting together in the Dirksen Senate Building at 9 am. You have to have reservations, but it is a great time to meet our senators and congresswoman and their staff. The staff is actually the key part. These are the folks we work with to get things done. I showed up and was met at the door by the natural resources staff of both Senator Barasso and Senator Enzi. We grabbed coffee and a donut (Dunkin), and found a corner. These guys have been around the DC block, they were young, but they worked for Senators and Senate Committees, they were used to guys like me. Probably why they met me at the door. I made my ask to them, they heard me out, and asked good questions.
Senators Enzi and Barasso came over and we said hello, I made my ask again. Sen. Barasso’s position as Chair of the Environment and Public Work Committee, made him the key guy I needed to speak with. Senator Enzi is chair of the Budget Committee, so ensuring the Land and Water Conservation Fund is funded and federal agency funding was high on my list. It is hard to do NEPA without any money, which stops small town economies in the West.
When in DC, or talking to any politician, have an ask ready.
- Senator Barasso, we need your support on the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. As chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, your vote is crucial.
- Senator Barasso and Enzi, please let Sec. Zinke know you support Governor Mead and the Wyoming Sage Grouse Plans.
- Senator Barasso and Enzi, did you know the Department of Interior is leasing 1.3 million acres in Wyoming for oil and gas development in 2018? Did you know Governor Mead, the WGFD, Sweetwater County and a coalition of Conservation groups have asked Sec. Zinke to withdraw 160,000 acres based on wildlife migrations and crucial habitat? Would you be willing to do the same?
The Exchange of Cards: 9:30am
The senators went on their way to the next interest group. I exchanged cards with staff for follow-up and then left. By 9:45 I was eating breakfast at a greasy spoon a few blocks off the Hill. I was not alone in this endeavor, I saw folks from Wyoming Nature Conservancy and the Wyoming Stock Grower Association at the Wyoming Wendesday. Around 10:30, I was walking with a friend to get our obligatory capital photo. I saw the rancher I met from Sinclair, a Wyoming Stock Growers Board Member, sitting on a park bench talking on the phone. As the DC heat came on we all looked like we had just loaded 10 tons of hay in a tweed jacket.
11 am Congresswoman Cheney’s Legislative Director:
“What is up with the rumored Wilderness Study Area release Bill? Can you please support the process?” We were insured that they supported the local Wyoming Public Lands Initiative and wanted to see the local process play out.
When WWF ask members to get engaged, please do. It matters. We shared a few letters to the Congresswoman about the importance of Wilderness to people of Wyoming. Please continue to write Con. Cheney letters. Learn More here.
We brought her staff up to speed on the same ask we talked to the senators about. Congresswoman Cheney’s staff offered to write a blog for us about their work. I’m holding them to it, so stay tuned. Business cards were exchanged and we were in a cab by 11:30.
Department of Interior:
I was in a packed “Uber” with staff from the National Wildlife Federation. As we talked strategy, quiet Iranian pop music came from the speakers. The driver pushed through DC traffic like he was back in Tehran. I sat in the front seat. We drove along the Potomac River, I could see it was bank full with large logs rolling in heavy rain run-off mixed with high tide. The driver saw me watching and said, “hey you should have been here last week it was out of its banks.” Like me, he gauged things on the flow of rivers.
At Interior, we were brought upstairs by staff and met the “Director of the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs” and the “Senior Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Immediate Office of the Secretary”. What struck me right off was the images on the wall. I walked in with 2 people from Montana, a guy from Colorado and myself, let’s just say back in DC they are very proud of the large color glossy images of the land they manage in WY, MT, and CO. The views of the Tetons in the conference room were not as good as the Jackson airport, but I was home sick when I saw Devil’s Tower.
Me: “Look fellas, let me tell you about the Sublette Mule Deer Herd, one of the best in WY. We lost nearly 40% when they developed the Anticline. These deer can migrate 250 miles. This upcoming lease sale is right in the winter range they are trying to get to. This means potentially less deer for the small town outfitter, bartender, and hotel owner that make a living off hunting. It will not help the local family wanting a deer in the freezer for winter. You boys got this Sec. Order 3362 that says you’re going to protect and enhance big game migrations, but instead we see you directly leasing 26,000 acres for oil and gas in the nation’s longest big game migration.”
The BLM and Department of Interior will lease nearly 1.3 million acres of federal lands in Wyoming this year. Much of this is in Greater Sage Grouse habitat and mule deer habitat. Wyoming Wildlife Federation understands the need for balance. We are asking for the withdraw of nearly 160,000 acres in the Greater Little Mountain Area (Mule Deer Area 102) and leases that fall within the Red Desert to Hoback migration corridor. Sec. Zinke issued SO 3362 to protect and enhance migrations in western states. There is an executive order to increase oil and gas development that maybe running counter to this concept in Wyoming. We are not alone, Wyoming Game and Fish, Governor Mead, and Sweetwater County also have asked for withdraw of these leases from the 3rd and 4th quarter sale. WWF will meet with DOI again in late July to push this issue before the August deadline.
A red eye flight and I was back in Wyoming by 2pm. I sat holding my 7 month old boy looking out across the sagebrush and cottonwoods that night. We have it so good here, but every once in a while it takes diving into the “Swamp” to keep it that way.