Barrasso: The People of Wyoming Should Make the Decision About How to Treat Their Public Lands

June 7, 2022

Click here to watch Ranking Member Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered remarks at a hearing of the Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining to receive testimony on pending public lands legislation. 

The hearing featured testimony from Ms. Nada Culver, deputy director of Policy & Programs at the Bureau of Land Management at the U.S. Department of the Interior; Mr. Christopher French, deputy chief of the National Forest System at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service; Mr. Jake Garfield, deputy director of the Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office; Dr. Sean McKenna, executive director of the Division of Hydrologic Sciences at the Desert Research Institute; and Mr. Jerimiah Rieman, executive director of the Wyoming County Commissioners Association. 

For more information on witness testimony click here. 

Senator Barrasso’s remarks: 

“In regards to the agenda today, there are a number of important bills before the subcommittee. 

“I want to discuss three specific bills are going to directly benefit Wyoming’s public lands, and those who enjoy and rely on them. 

“S. 1750, the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative Act, would resolve the management status of thousands of acres of federal lands in seven Wyoming counties. 

“These acres are in Wilderness Study Areas, which are lands managed solely for preservation, even though they are not included in the National Wilderness Preservation System. 

“As the name suggests, the Bureau of Land Management studies these areas to determine whether they should be designated as wilderness lands or returned to multiple-use status.  

“But until Congress acts, these acres are treated as wilderness. 

“In 1991, the Bureau of Land Management released a report recommending a balanced approach for Wyoming’s study areas. 

“Some of the land was recommended for wilderness designation, while the majority was recommended for release back to multiple-use status. 

“Unfortunately, here we are three decades later, and these lands still remain in limbo and locked-up. 

“That is why seven of our counties took on the issue with the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative. 

“This bill, which I was proud to introduce on their behalf, is the result of their hard work. 

“It also generally follows the recommendations of that report from 1991. 

“It strikes a balance between protecting the wild places that people in Wyoming love, while expanding multiple-use areas that our state and our local economies need. 

“Resolving this decades-old stalemate would increase conservation, recreation, oil and gas production, and other vital multiple uses of Wyoming’s public lands. 

“I look forward to continuing an open and transparent process on this issue. 

“It is my firm belief that it is not Washington, but the people of Wyoming who should make the decision about how to treat these lands.  

“The second bill is S. 1264, the Resiliency for Ranching and Natural Conservation Health Act—or the RANCH Act. 

“My bill would help improve our rangelands, and benefit ranchers and rural communities. 

“It is critical that we restore our federal grazing lands impacted by drought and wildfires.

“In the interim, our ranchers must be granted access to vacant grazing allotments. 

“The RANCH Act would do exactly that by improving rangeland health, and allowing for the use of vacant allotments. 

“It would also extend the period of grazing permits and cut red tape during the renewal process. 

“The third bill, which I was proud to sponsor alongside Senator Thune, is S. 3709, the Black Hills Forest Protection and Jobs Preservation Act. 

“For more than a century, the timber sale program on the Black Hills National Forest has been the primary tool for successful forest management. 

“Together, the Forest Service and industry partners have worked closely to reduce insect infestation and catastrophic wildfires that continue to plague other western forests.  

“Recent Forest Service decisions to drastically lower timber harvest levels are now threatening this partnership.  

“One mill has been forced to close and further closures could follow. 

“If sawmill infrastructure is lost on the Black Hills, it will cripple the Forest Service’s ability to manage and protect the forest. 

“By prioritizing management projects to improve forest health and resilience, our bill would protect the forest and help preserve local economies. 

“Thank you, Madam Chair, and I look forward to hearing today’s testimony.”