If the controversial Bureau of Land Management plan for managing 3.6 million acres in the Rock Springs region goes through, Wyoming could push back with noncompliance and possibly poaching BLM employees, a prominent legislator said.
Proposed legislation would authorize an incentive program for federal employees who instead of having to promote and support a management plan they disagree with might want to come work for the state of Wyoming, Sen. Brian Boner, R-Douglas, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.
Boner co-chairs the Legislature’s joint Select Federal Natural Resources Management Committee, which is considering potential legislation in response to the plan.
Sheriff Says He Won’t Play Ball
Sweetwater County Sheriff John Grossnickle also has told the committee that he would to refuse to help the BLM enforce elements of proposed Rock Springs Resource Management Plan, such as possible road closures, Boner said.
It’s a stance similar to what some local law enforcement agencies took during the COVID-19 pandemic about enforcing mask and other public health mandates.
The committee enthusiastically endorsed Grossnickle’s position. He also would like to extend that to the office of Gov. Mark Gordon.
The committee has proposed drafting a pair of bills in response to the RMP, including one that would direct the governor’s office to refuse to comply or cooperate with policies in the RMP that might harm Wyoming’s vital economic interests.
Come Work For Wyoming Instead
The second proposed bill would set aside $10 million to, among other things, set up a new position in the governor’s office to coordinate efforts to protect the state’s interests, Boner said. Some of that money also could be used to cover salaries and benefits packages for BLM employees who opt to jump ship and work for Wyoming.
“I wonder if there aren’t some employees who wouldn’t be happier working for the state of Wyoming rather than the BLM?” Boner said.
As for the title of the new position within the governor’s office, that hasn’t been determined.
“We’ll have to come up with a catchy name for it,” Boner said.
Those proposed draft bills will be considered during the committee’s next meeting Nov. 13. If the committee opts to greenlight them, they would go before the Legislature during the upcoming 2024 session, he said.
BLM Would Be On Its Own
The committee also hopes to find ways to boost cooperation with county governments and others that could be affected by the Rock Springs RMP, Boner said.
He said the RMP in its current form would cause “a massive problem” for the state, impacted Wyoming counties and local interests.
“It makes a strong departure from the policy of collaboration between the federal government, the state and locals,” he said, adding that noncompliance from sheriff’s offices, the state and others could give Wyoming leverage.
For instance, the BLM has only 12 law enforcement officers in the entire state of Wyoming, so it relies heavily on the help of local agencies, Boner said. So, if Grossnickle makes good on his promise to not cooperate, and other agencies follow suit, the BLM would be left on its own with far too much to tackle.
Still Time To Comment
The Rock Springs BLM field office oversees roughly 3.6 million acres in Wyoming. The draft RMP designates 1.8 million acres of that as “areas of critical environmental concern,” which would greatly limit what that land can be used for.
The agency has encouraged Wyomingites to comment on the draft RMP. The public comment period is open through Nov. 16. The draft RMP, maps and a link to submit comments are available online.
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.