ENR Advances Legislation Supporting Wyoming’s Resources

December 14, 2023

Click here to watch Senator Barrasso’s opening remarks.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) convened a business meeting at which members approved multiple pieces of legislation. Among the bills approved were two introduced by ENR ranking member John Barrasso (R-WY). Those bills are S. 1662, the Pilot Butte Power Plant Conveyance Act, and S.1348, the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative Act of 2023. Both passed out of ENR by voice vote.

In the markup, ranking member Barrasso highlighted how the Pilot Butte Power Plant Conveyance Act would help spur the responsible resource management of Wyoming’s Pilot Butte Power Plant facility.

“Among these bills is the Pilot Butte Power Plant Conveyance Act, which I’ve introduced this year… This hydropower plant has not been in service since 2008 when it became too costly to operate. And as a result, the plant has been sitting idle for the past 15 years, and the Bureau of Reclamation is planning to demolish it. The Midvale Irrigation District in Pavillion, Wyoming is willing to take ownership of the power plant. If enacted, the bill will allow for this federally owned power plant to be transferred to a local entity that can make the needed repairs and bring it back into operation. This is a win-win situation. The American people will no longer own a mothballed facility that would cost money to demolish. And the people of Wyoming will be able to put the hydropower plant back into use,” said ranking member Barrasso during the markup.

In addition, ranking member Barrasso discussed his Wyoming Public Lands Initiative Act, which would resolve the management status for thousands of acres of federal public lands across seven counties in Wyoming.

 “I want to thank the Wyoming County Commissioners for their collaboration since 2015. The bill, which I am proud to sponsor on their behalf, generally follows the recommendations of the 1991 report. “[The Wyoming Public Lands Initiative Act] strikes a balance between protecting the places people in Wyoming love, while expanding multiple-use areas that our state and local economies rely on,” said ranking member Barrasso during the mark up.

“The bill was developed by the people who live near the land and who will be accessing the land when it is enacted. It was developed ‘from the ground up’. It resolves a decades-old stalemate. The bill will increase conservation, and ensure that other lands can be unlocked for uses important to the people of Wyoming. I firmly believe the people of Wyoming, not Washington, should decide how to manage these lands,” continued ranking member Barrasso.

Background Information on the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative Act:

The bill is championed by the entire Wyoming Congressional delegation and is the direct result of a collaborative process started under the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative (WPLI). The WPLI was created by the Wyoming County Commissioners Association in 2015 to seek locally driven solutions on the future of federal public lands that have been in management limbo for more than 30 years.  

Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) are a special designation for lands that are managed to protect wilderness characteristics until Congress specifically designated them as Wilderness or directs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to manage the area for multiple uses. WSAs were intended to be temporary designations. These particular temporary designations have persisted for more than 30 years.

In 2015, the Wyoming County Commissioners Association (WCCA) initiated the WPLI to provide a framework for counties to discuss and resolve various public lands issues around the state. The process was intended to focus on resolving the status of the 45 Wilderness Study Areas around Wyoming. It allowed all 23 counties to “opt in/out” of the process based on suitability for their county and to determine the composition and rules of their committees.

As a result of the WPLI process, the following seven counties in Wyoming have submitted their recommendations that are included in the legislation: Campbell, Carbon, Fremont, Hot Springs, Johnson, Natrona and Washakie counties.

The legislation includes:

- 17 release and manage as multiple-use totaling over 100,000 acres
- 7 designations of a “Special Management Area” totaling approximately 91,229 acres
- 5 wilderness designations totaling approximately 20,411 acres
- 2 policy directives

Click here for more information on today’s business meeting or to watch the markup in full.